So what if the stock market tanks? Who cares if the White House is in crisis? Numerous catalogers are still confident that more people will want to spend money via catalogs this holiday season. Many, in fact, are reporting double-digit circulation boosts for the fourth quarter, with a larger proportion of the mailings going to prospect lists.

Several industry suppliers confirm the rise in customer acquisition efforts. “Most mailers are gravitating toward prospecting because they want to be more aggressive, particularly with multibuyers,” says John Roberson, senior vice president of sales and marketing of Houston-based service bureau Dynamic, a KnowledgeBase company.

Roy Schwedelson, president of Boca Raton, FL-based list company Worldata, says his catalog clients are prospecting more as well. “If someone had been mailing 5 million more names, now he’s talking about 8 million more names.” Schwedelson’s explanation? “I think it has to do with more marketers going public and trying to beat the numbers for the analysts’ benefit.”

“No one’s really cutting back. Most are heavily prospecting,” notes Andy Ostroy, managing partner of list firm ALC of New York. Ostroy says clients are even turning to alternative prospecting methods, such as compiled or publication lists.

Certainly there’s plenty of optimism in the air. For instance, the $135.5 million cataloger DM Management will continue its aggressive prospecting, at least for its J. Jill catalog of casual women’s apparel, says executive vice president John Hayes. “We’ve been doing a healthy amount of prospecting with J. Jill for more than a year now, and that will continue into the holidays.” Although the Hingham, MA-based cataloger won’t disclose circulation figures, J. Jill increased its second-quarter circulation a whopping 130% this year, with most of the increase due to prospecting.

Meanwhile, $1.5 million Fairytale Brownies is revving up its prospecting efforts 50% compared to holiday 1997, says Eileen Spitalney, director of sales and marketing for the Scottsdale, AZ-based food catalog. Mailing more to outside lists, she says, is an ideal way for the five-year-old cataloger to get in front of a new audience. “We are a new company with so much potential for growth.” Fairytale Brownies will drop 35,000 books during the holidays.

Wall Street Creations, a $6 million mailer of finance-themed collectible gifts, plans on boosting holiday circulation 38%, with the majority going to prospects, says marketing and merchandise manager Acy Crawford. “We are aggressively mailing more.” Rome, GA-based Wall Street Creations does nearly 60% of its business during the fourth quarter.

Hit ’em while they’re hot Chicago-based home furnishings cataloger/retailer Crate & Barrel will also increase prospecting, although spokeswoman Bette Kahn is tight-lipped about exact circulation numbers. But like many other mailers, Crate & Barrel is hitting consumers while they’re hot. “Sales were very strong this year,” Kahn says.

According to Jack Rosenfeld, president of Medfield, MA-based Potpourri Collections, the gifts-and-needlework cataloger will be increasing circulation 5%-10%, mostly to prospects. The $35 million Potpourri Collections is the parent company of titles Potpourri, Stitchery, Expressions, and Counted Cross Stitch.

The Mark Group, a $93 million multititle cataloger, has similar plans for boosting holiday prospecting. According to Debbie Musikas, director of circulation for women’s apparel book Boston Proper, the company plans a 10% increase in circulation, with the lion’s share of names coming from outside lists. The Boca Raton, FL-based Mark Group will bump circulation of its other women’s clothing catalog, Mark, Fore & Strike, by 3%, mostly to prospects, although circulation for home-and-gifts catalog Charles Keath will remain flat. The Mark Group has eliminated one holiday remail fromCharles Keath and added that number to its other titles.

And women’s apparel ca taloger Barrie Pace plans an 8%-10% increase in prospecting this holiday compared to holiday 1997. But it will also use enhanced database and modeling strategies to get the most from its house file, says marketing manager Gina Valentino.

While scores of catalogers are prospecting more this holiday season, San Francisco-based Abbey Press, for one, is playing it safe. The mailer of spiritual greeting cards is scheduling a circulation increase of less than 5%, all to its house file, says president Gerald Wilhite.

“We are planning a back-to-basics approach this year,” Wilhite explains. “Last year, we were a little more daring, and it didn’t pay off. There will be no prospect mailing, and what is increased will be to the house file.”

A softness in response has $35 million U.S. Cavalry, which sells military-type apparel and equipment, keeping circulation steady for holiday 1997. “It’s harder to find good names,” says Randy Acton, president/CEO of the Radcliff, KY-based company, “because I think they are all being overmailed this holiday.”

And $1.5 billion general merchandise mailer Spiegel will mail a “higher proportion to its house file,” says Kathleen Kanehann, divisional vice president of customer development for the Spiegel catalog. “We’ve increased efforts to reactivate our existing customer base while using nonbuyer mailings as a contingency.” Likewise, DM Management is working its house file harder on behalf of its Nicole Summers title, which sells career-oriented fashions. “A greater percentage” of its circulation, says executive vice president John Hayes, “will be mailed inhouse.”

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