Holiday Circulation Numbers On the Rise

‘Tis the season for increasing catalog circulations, according to catalogers and list companies interviewed by MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT for its November 2006 issue.

For example, Kansas City, MO-based Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, says the company plans to mail about 40% more catalogs this holiday season. Shelburne, VT-based gifts merchant Vermont Teddy Bear Co. reports for all brands combined, total circulation is being bumped up almost 30%. And Madison, WI-based The Guild, a purveyor of artisan gifts, décor, and jewelry, catalog circulation will double this holiday season.

John Lenser, president, San Rafael, CA-based catalog consultancy Lenser, says circulation both to one’s house file and prospects is increased in the season in which response will be the highest for the specific mailer; conversely, circulation is decreased during weak response periods.

“The truth ‘you sow seeds when the ground is fertile’ is very true with catalog companies. You mail deep when your weaker segments will perform at an acceptable level,” Lenser says. “For those selling gifts or giftable items, that is the Christmas season.”

Stephen Lett, president of Bethany Beach, DE-based consultancy Lett Direct, agrees with Lenser, and says he’s seeing increases of 10%-15% across the board for most of his clients. He adds that most of his clients are at or above plan, which is giving them a little more confidence to increase their circulation without taking a huge risk.

“The point is our clients are hitting their numbers this year, and their profits are falling in line with that,” Lett said. “Now they can take a small risk with circulation and have that expense flow to the bottom line.”

Also, Lett adds circulations may be slightly on the rise as mailers play beat-the-clock with the next postal increase, which could come either in May or July, depending on whom you ask.

Donna Belardi, president of New York-based list firm Belardi/Ostroy ALC, said fourth quarter circulation boosts have been an industry trend over the past few years.

“For general merchandise, home, and gift, fourth quarter continues to be the most profitable mailing time and many companies struggle earlier in the year,” Belardi said. “They obviously want to take advantage of the most profitable time, but also need to continue to boost circulation in fourth quarter to make up for any cutbacks from the first half. It’s important for them to come in ahead year over year.”

Not every merchant is dropping more catalogs this fall, however. Richmond,
VA-based cataloger/retailer Children¹s Wear Digest (CWD) is actually cutting fall circulation 5%-10%, to about 15 million catalogs annually, and reducing
prospecting, says president Jim Klaus. But the children’s apparel mailer
expects an increase of at least 5% for fall catalog sales, due to increased
search engine and e-mail marketing.

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