Monday, 4 January 2010

December Catalogue Log

Each year we read that consumers are waiting later and later to complete their Christmas shopping. But marketers are apparently not waiting till the last minute to send their catalogues. In December we received just 62 catalogues, the lowest volume of any month in 2009 except April. (And I’m sure that the scant 40 catalogues we tallied in April was some sort of aberration. Gremlins must have swiped the bulk of our post that month so that they could order more spanners to throw into works.) By way of comparison, in November we received more than twice as many catalogues—140.

Half of the December catalogues made no mention of special offers on their covers or in their covering letters. This is a statistically insignificant increase from the 49.3 percent of November’s catalogues. What’s more the percentage of free delivery and gift-with-purchase offers declined. Whereas 19.3 percent of the November catalogues advertised free P&P, just 12.9 percent of the December catalogues did. Likewise, 14.3 percent of the November catalogues touted a free gift, compared with 6.5 percent in December.

These numbers might lead you to believe that fewer marketers felt the need to reduce their margins in order to gain sales from procrastinating Christmas shoppers. But the percentage of catalogues offering sales and discounts refute this: 37.1 percent of the December books boasted of discounts and similar offers, up from 31.4 percent in November.

Only five of the 62 catalogues prominently displayed their order deadlines for Christmas delivery. Maybe that was because most of the cataloguers didn’t have particularly user-friendly deadlines. Knitwear mailer Wolsey, for instance, gave noon, 16th December as its cut-off date—not much of a help for last-minute shoppers. Discount fashion mailer M and M Direct had the latest deadline: midday on 22nd December.

Conversely, Argos targeted early birds with its Furniture Sale insert, which let customers know that the sale began on Christmas day.

Now, as a treat for the wonks amongst you, a few year-end statistics. In total, Catalogue e-business logged in 1,476 catalogues in 2009. September was the month with the greatest volume, a back-breaking (for the posties) 212 catalogues.

May saw the highest percentage of catalogues with prominent sale or discount offers, 43.7 percent. The March books, meanwhile, were the least likely to boast of discounts and price cuts, with just 28.1 percent doing so. For all of 2009, 523 catalogues, or 35.4 percent, made a point of promoting discounts and sales.

Free delivery was most popular in October, with 21.7 percent of the catalogues offering it, and least popular in February, when only 7.3 percent offered it. For the entire year, 219 catalogues, or 14.8 percent, offered conditional or nonconditional free P&P.

Slightly less popular as a promotion was the gift with purchase. All told, 191 of the catalogues received last year, or 12.9 percent, offered it. June was the most popular month for free gifts, when 17.8 percent offered them.--SC

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