Growth spurt for kids’ market

Dec 01, 2006 10:30 PM  By

The baby boomers are all grown up, but that’s not stopping them and their offspring from buying children’s merchandise via mail. According to New York-based list brokerage ParadyszMatera, the 12-month active universe for the children’s catalog market hit 8.51 million names during the third quarter, an increase of nearly 10% from the third quarter of last year and up almost 14% from two years prior. These catalogs account for about 5% of the 12-month consumer buyers available for rental or exchange.

The market’s growth is all the more impressive when you bear in mind that catalogs such as L.L. Bean Kids, Lands’ End Kids, and Company Kids aren’t included, as the parent brands do not separate those customers from the names on their masterfiles. Much of the increase in active buyers is due to the release of several sizable lists, such as CBD Kids (324,000 12-month buyers) from Christian Book Distributors.

What’s more, a number of already-large lists within the marketplace got even bigger. The 12-month buyer file of dolls catalog American Girl, for instance, grew roughly 16%, or 136,000 names, to more than 993,500 active buyers for the third quarter of 2006 — making it the largest of the children’s merchandise lists. The third largest file, that of party products mailer Birthday Express, grew by an even greater rate: 25%, to more than 775,000 12-month buyers. Among smaller lists that made great gains were toys cataloger Young Explorers (45% year-over-year growth, to 130,000 12-month buyers) and Fisher-Price, which like American Girl is owned by Mattel (36% growth, to almost 54,000 active buyers).

An increase in incentives among children’s mailers has contributed to the expansion in active buyers. During the first nine months of 2006, 23% of the children’s catalogs received by ParadyszMatera offered some sort of sales promotion, up from 19% for all of 2005 and 16% for 2004.

Free shipping promotions were the most popular, with 17% of the catalogs offering them during the first three quarters of the year, compared with 15% for all of last year. Apparel merchant CWD Kids, toys cataloger/retailer FAO Schwarz, and Warm Biscuit Bedding Co. were among the mailers that began offering S&H incentives this year.

So far this year 7% of the children’s catalogs tracked touted discounts, up from 4% in 2005, with Constructive Playthings, U.S. Toy, and Growing Up with Garnet Hill among those testing the promotion this year.

House file universe: children’s catalogs

3Q
2004
4Q
2004
1Q
2005
2Q
2005
3Q
2005
4Q
2005
1Q
2006
2Q
2006
3Q
2006
Total universe 7.48 7.62 7.94 7.87 7.77 7.73 8.14 8.34 8.51

Children’s catalogs with the largest active buyer files

Rank List name 3Q 2006 house file universe Average order
1 American Girl Catalog 993,524 $100
2 Pottery Barn Kids 877,231 $170
3 Birthday Express Buyers 775,287 $85
4 One Step Ahead 561,037 $65
5 HearthSong 437,202 $65
Source: ParadyszMatera