Up until now, catalogue volume had been mostly in line with 2010, but July’s crop took a nosedive. A quick look at the data shows we’ve slipped off a number of lists including apparel retailers MandM Direct, Cashmere Centre and Peter Hahn. On the other hand, this year we’ve received mailings from clothing catalogue Peruvian Connection, childrenswear boutique Marie Chantal, and personalised apparel specialist Spreadshirt—so plenty of new names to top up our catalogue stocks.
So what’s the reason for the decline? It could be that, as I’ve suspected before, we’re dropping off more lists than we are added to. No-one wants to waste money regularly mailing a prospect that hasn’t bought in longer than 24 months. Another reason, mentioned by our publisher Jane Revell-Higgins recently, was that there seem to be fewer inserts in national media. We noted only a minor difference of five catalogues, but it is nonetheless, a decline.
Another potential reason is that we are at the height of the summer sale season. Perhaps a tighter control on margins means fewer markdowns and less stock to shift in the sales? You tell me.
But back to the stats. Of the 64 catalogues we logged, just 20, or 31.3 percent, made no mention of a special offer on the cover. That makes July our most promotional month to date, beating February’s record of 32.7 percent. The most popular promotion was a sale or discount, touted on 54.7 percent of all the covers we looked at. Fashion brand Fat Face, apparel and home retailer Laura Ashley and homewares catalogue Peacock Blue all sought to tempt us with money off our order.
Free delivery was the second most popular promotion, offered by 21.9 percent of the catalogues we tracked. Again, this was one of the highest percentages we tracked—significantly higher than June 2011’s 12.3 percent, and just a whisper away from February’s 22.1 percent. Many catalogues elected to set a threshold for a free delivery offer, including charity mailer RNLI, which required customers to spend £25 before qualifying, and educational toys cataloguer the Happy Puzzle Company, which made free shipping available to those who spend £40 or more.
Also more popular, albeit marginally, was a free gift with purchase. It was promoted on 10.9 percent of catalogue covers in July, compared with 9.8 percent in June. My favourite was an offer from Laithwaites Wines, which teamed with Pong Cheese to offer buyers of its Italian wines a selection of free Italian cheeses. I was also quite taken with apparel cataloguer Long Tall Sally, which mailed me a £20 gift voucher to put towards whatever I liked—no minimum spend, no strings attached. That was definitely an offer too good to miss for the consumer, but it makes me wonder how Long Tall Sally can afford to give every name on its database £20 for free.
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