What’s new? Not much

After five consecutive months of declines, year-over-year catalog volume rose in July — barely. Catalog Tracker, a service of Greenwich, CT-based list and marketing services firm Direct Media, received 301 consumer catalogs this past July, a scant three more than the 298 it had received in July 2004.

What’s more, the percentage of July catalogs offering free shipping and handling remained flat at 11%, though that’s down from the 13% of books that offered free S&H in June 2005. The percentage of deferred billing offers also remained flat year-over-year, at 5%. That was a significant decline from the 9% of catalogs in June 2005 that provided deferred billing, however.

As was the case in June, there were few other distinguishing promotions among the July 2005 catalogs. Constructive Playthings and Performance Bicycle tried to shift customers to Web ordering by offering discounts on online purchases. Diamond Essence and window treatments mailer Smith + Noble courted prospects by offering discounts for first purchases. Dr. Leonard’s and Healthy Living, both of which sell healthcare items and lifestyle aids to older, moderate-income consumers, each boasted of throwing in a free gift with every order.

This month’s Jumping the Gun Award goes to toys cataloger Young Explorers; Catalog Tracker received its Holiday Preview edition the week of July 3. The National Wildlife gifts book earns an honorable mention, as its Holiday Preview edition was in the mailbox the week of July 24. And the Telling It Like It Is Award goes to J. Peterman; the apparel merchant titled its July edition Doldrums 2005.

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