Volume steady, offers rising

After zigging upward in January and zagging downward in February, year-over-year catalog volume held all but steady in March, according to Catalog Tracker. A service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media, Catalog Tracker received 418 consumer catalogs in March, just four fewer than it had tallied in March 2004. In comparison, February’s year-over-year volume was down almost 7%, while January’s had climbed more than 19%.

But the percentage of catalogs offering free shipping and handling rose from 9% in March 2004 to 12% — one in every 8.5 catalogs. The percentage of books offering deferred billing rose as well, from 7% to 9%.

And some catalogers, no doubt believing that nothing succeeds like excess, wooed customers with simultaneous offers of free S&H and deferred billing. The ultragenerous catalogs include women’s apparel titles Bedford Fair and Willow Ridge, both of which are owned by Crosstown Traders; another women’s apparel book, Redcats USA’s La Redoute; general merchant Lillian Vernon, in both the core title and the Lilly’s Kids catalog; and novelties mailer Oriental Trading Co.

Among other promotions, two catalogs — needlecraft title The Stitchery and Yankee Candle Co. — offered a flat shipping fee. In addition to free shipping, the Spring 2005 edition of the Blair apparel catalog (not to be confused with the Can’t Wait for Spring 2005 edition) offered customers who signed up to receive e-mails from the company $5 off their online purchase. Sixteen catalogs — including steaks purveyor Allen Brothers, chocolatier Bissinger, and women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Coldwater Creek (in both its core title and its Coldwater Creek Sport spin-off) — offered a gift with purchase; that’s one more than it had in February. And three titles from Redcats USA — women’s apparel books Chadwick’s and Lerner, and home decor catalog Brylane Home — included a scratch-off “instant win” game; so did the Dream Products general merchandise catalog.

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