Monday, 8 November 2010

October Catalogue Log

Last month I predicted that as we get closer to Christmas we would receive more catalogues touting free delivery promotions on their front covers. The catalogues we tallied in October, however, proved me wrong.

September had seen a record number of catalogues offering conditional or unconditional free delivery, and, based on what we saw in 2009, it seemed that October’s crop of catalogues would follow suit. In fact, the number of catalogues promoting free shipping in October 2010 was fewer than one in five (19 percent), the lowest figure since July and down on October 2009 when 21.7 percent of catalogues promoted it. Among the catalogues that offered free delivery in 2009, White Stuff went for the same deal in 2010—free delivery and free returns; Past Times increased its order value threshold from £40 to £50 in order to qualify for free delivery; BooksDirect decided not to repeat the offer, opting for a free gift promotion instead, and Lands’ End shifted to a discount instead of free shipping.

That’s not the only decline we recorded. We received fewer catalogues in October—147 compared with September’s 185. We also noted that the number of catalogues offering any sort of offer was significantly lower than in September. We saw an almost even split between catalogues using their covers to promote a sale, discount, free gift, or free delivery and those that offered no special promotions at all. What’s more, the percentage of catalogues offering a free gift with purchase was just 10.2 percent, the lowest it’s been since December 2009.

Contributing to this downward trend is the fact that several of the catalogues we received did not feature a special offer on the cover, but did send a covering letter or included an insert within the catalogue that carried a promotion. This tactic was used by homewares catalogue Cologne & Cotton, which on a separate sheet of paper gave mainland UK customers free delivery on orders of £50 or more. At Lakeland, meanwhile, the order form was used to advertise its offer of free UK delivery on orders of £50 or more. I’m not sure why Lakeland would want to hide the offer. Is promoting free delivery from the cover not in-keeping with Lakeland’s brand values? Would a front-cover mention not lift take-up of the offer? I'd be interested to find out.

Here’s another little nugget for you, fact fans, out of 147 catalogues, 28, or 19 percent, had the word Christmas in the edition’s title. Just one had the word Halloween.--MT

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