Catalog Tracker: Last-Minute Surge in Volume

Catalog Tracker has finally logged in the last of the consumer catalogs received for 2006 — no small task, given that the service of Greenwich, CT-based marketing services provider Direct Media had received 4,585 books for the year. Yet that total is down 2.7% from the 4,712 b-to-c catalogs received in 2005 — which was itself down slightly from 4,737 catalogs in 2004.

Indeed, there were only three months in 2006 in which year-over-year catalog volume rose: February, November, and December. The end-of-year boost — Catalog Tracker received 880 books in November and December 2006, a 2.4% increase from the 859 received in November and December 2005 — indicates that marketers continue to push back their holiday mailings to capture sales from procrastinators, whose last-minute tendencies have been encouraged by the immediacy of the Web and the promise of overnight delivery.

The percentage of December catalogs that offered deferred billing declined from 7% in 2005 to 5%. Likewise, the percentage of free shipping offers fell as well, from 15% in December 2005 to 13% in December 2006. That 13% was also a decrease from 15% in November 2006. Catalogers may figure that anyone who’s still ordering Christmas gifts in December isn’t going to waste precious time shopping around for promotions such as free shipping; they’re probably more concerned about getting it shipped in time for Christmas delivery.

Speaking of which, nearly 22% of the December 2006 catalogs promoted their deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery on their cover, up slightly from nearly 21% the previous December but up markedly from 11% the previous month. A variety of merchants — women’s apparel cataloger/retailers Appleseed’s and Victoria’s Secret, collectibles title Danbury Mint, auto accessories mailer Mid America Motorworks, and outdoor sporting gear cataloger/retailer Cabela’s, to name just a few — promised Christmas delivery for in-stock items ordered as late as Dec. 22. But they were trumped by apparel cataloger/retailer Eddie Bauer and apparel and home goods merchant Lands’ End, both of which guaranteed delivery for items ordered up until Dec. 23, the Saturday before the holiday.

No. of catalogs received in 2006 No. of catalogs received in 2005 % change 2006 vs. 2005
January 390 400 (2.5)
February 376 322 16.8
March 392 418 (6.2)
April 353 398 (11.3)
May 357 358
June 265 281 (5.7)
July 286 301 (5.0)
August 349 357 (2.2)
September 415 453 (8.4)
October 522 565 (7.6)
November 569 559 1.8
December 311 300 3.7
Total 4,585 4,712 (2.7)
Source: Direct Media’s Catalog Tracker

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