Home, sweet home catalogs

As the size of the average American home has been creeping upward over the years, so has the size of the 12-month active universe for the home catalogs market. New York-based list brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera estimates that during the second quarter of 2006, the names of 19.5 million 12-month buyers of home decor and housewares catalogs were available for rental or exchange, up 2.3% from the second quarter of 2005 and up 3.2% from the second quarter of 2004. All told, home catalogs account for about 11.5% of all 12-month consumer catalog buyers whose names are on the market.

San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma is a dominant player: Its Pottery Barn list is the sector’s largest, with nearly 1.7 million 12-month buyers, and its eponymous catalog of kitchenware is number two, with more than 1.1 million 12-month buyers. During the quarter the company released the list of its newest brand, Williams-Sonoma Home, which sells furniture at price points a bit higher than those of Pottery Barn; it has 49,000 active buyers in its file.

The catalog with the fifth largest 12-month buyer file, Hanover Direct’s Domestications title, was also one of the sector’s greatest gainers. During the past year its house file increased more than 20%, to just shy of 956,500 12-month buyers. This growth is due in part to the addition of Web-generated names to the file. Another major gainer, cookery title NapaStyle, saw the size of its active buyer file shoot up 73.5%, to 98,000, due in part to increased circulation.

The use of incentives among home catalogs has shot up as well. During the first half of this year 24% of the home books received by ParadyszMatera offered some sort of incentive, such as discounts or deferred payment. That compares with 21% of the home catalogs received last year and 19% of those received in 2004. Deferred payment was the most popular incentive, with 15% of the home catalogs offering it, up from 11% last year. Home Depot, LinenSource, window treatment specialist Smith+Noble, and Domestications and another Hanover Direct title, The Company Store, were among the most active promoters of deferred payments.

Only 4% of the home decor mailers offered free shipping and handling so far this year. Given the cost of shipping hard goods, that’s not surprising.

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