Out of the gate and into the mail

Mailers started 2005 on an optimistic note. Apparently they were confident that consumers hadn’t spent all their disposable income during the holiday season: Catalog Tracker received 19% more consumer catalogs in January 2005 than it had in January 2004.

A service of Greenwich, CT-based list services firm Direct Media, Catalog Tracker logged in 400 consumer catalogs throughout this past January. The previous January it had received only 335 books, a 7% decline from January 2003’s 362 catalogs.

While the volume was appreciably higher this January, so was the percentage of mailers offering free shipping and deferred billing. Whereas 9% of the books received in January 2004 had touted free S&H, this year 11% did. This diverse group included apparel catalogers Alloy, Draper’s & Damon’s, Irvine Park, J. Crew, and Victoria’s Secret; audio/video mailers BBC America Shop, Beautiful Music Co., and PBS Home Video; gifts and collectibles book Cashs of Ireland; and food cataloger Edwards Virginia Traditions. And 7% offered deferred billing, more than double the 3% that promoted it in January 2004.

There was a dearth of other, more imaginative promotions. Gifts merchant 1-800-Flowers.com gave a 15% discount on purchases of at least $55. Abbey Press, which specializes in religious and spiritual gifts and home accessories, had a one-day-only discount offer. Basil Street Gallery, which sells reproduction artworks, offered discounts on orders placed before Valentine’s Day; another home decor mailer, Design Toscano, also gave a discount to customers who ordered by a certain date. And 16 catalogs — among them off-price beauty products mailer Beautytrends and high-end beauty products merchant Bliss — offered a gift with purchase.

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