Friday, 3 September 2010

August Catalogue Log

Last year, the fact that we received just 71 catalogues in August seemed unusual to us. But this year, receiving just 61 catalogues in August came as no surprise. We have been tracking a steady decline in catalogue volume during the last few months—the only anomaly being July, when sale activity boosted the number of catalogues to land on the Catalogue Log desk.

Comparing the catalogues received in August 2009 with those logged in August 2010, some titles that appear in both columns, such as Books Direct, House of Bruar and Scotts of Stow. There also seemed to be an almost equal number of new names this year to compensate for lists we have been dropped from. This further cements the theory that cataloguers are mailing smarter, removing unprofitable names from their files.

Cataloguers are also becoming smarter with their covers. We have been tracking how many catalogues highlight a sale or discount, free shipping, or a free gift on their covers since January 2009 and have noted an increasing trend of using the cover to promote some sort of offer. A staggering 65.6 percent of all the catalogues we received in August featured some sort of offer on the front cover—in July that figure was 64 percent and in June it was 60 percent. Among the minority of catalogues without a special offer were Brora, the Dolls House Emporium, and Lakeland.

The most popular offer in August was a sale or discount, promoted on 41 percent of the catalogue covers we logged. This is appreciably lower than July’s record high of 49.5 percent. Gaining favour with cataloguers in August was free delivery—the number of catalogues touting free shipping almost doubled from 12.1 percent in July to 23 percent in August. Catalogues offering free delivery included Bon Prix, Joules and Boden, which repeated its Sunday Times offer of last year—a 15 percent discount, free delivery, and free returns. We thought it made Boden look needy last year, but it obviously works or Boden wouldn’t have used it again.

The number of catalogues offering a free gift with purchase was 11.5 percent, down from 12.1 percent in July and from 14.1 percent in August 2009. Free gifts were mainly promoted by the b-to-b catalogues in the pack including Viking Direct and Neat Ideas.

Our favourite offer of the month is from gardening catalogue Sarah Raven’s Kitchen & Garden. Among the messages on the cover was this: “Offers What’s yours? See page 49”. I thought it was a fun way to encourage customers to flick through the catalogue. It also had a sense of personalisation—did my catalogue have a different offer to my friend or neighbour’s? I’d like to think there was some sort of segmentation that went into deciding which offer to send to which tranche of the database. Let's put it to the test, I got 15 percent off. What did you get?--MT

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