More than two-thirds of all the catalogues we received and logged during February 2011 featured some sort of special offer on the cover. That makes February the most promotional of the past 12 months. Up until now, the honour belonged to August 2010, when 65.6 percent of the front covers we tracked mentioned a sale, discount, free shipping, or free gift offer.
In February 2011, we noted a rise in each type of promotion tracked. Almost half of the covers featured a sale or discount—49 percent, compared with 44 percent in January. Among those touting a sale were promotional products marketer 4imprint, angling supplies catalogue Fishtec, and shirt maker Charles Tyrwhitt, which used inserts and mailings to promote its latest deals. In fact, we received three Charles Tyrwhitt catalogues in February, one with an offer for Sunday Times readers, one with an offer for Lands’ End customers and a third carrying the rather curious offer code of Elliot.
Free delivery was the second most popular offer, with 22 percent of catalogues promoting free shipping on the cover. That’s up from 16 percent in January, but only marginally ahead of December, and behind September’s crop of catalogues, which saw the highest percentage of catalogues promoting free delivery, 24.3 percent. Some merchants, like Boden, Figleaves, Healthspan, and Hotter Shoes, combined free delivery with a price-related promotion for an even better deal for customers.
Also on the up was the popularity of free gifts. Eighteen percent of the covers we tracked featured a free gift with purchase, including gardening supplies business Wiggly Wigglers, which gave away three bars of Divine chocolate with orders of £30 or more. It’s the highest percentage we’ve seen for several months, up from 16 percent in January and three times more what we logged in December.
Now compare this with February 2010 and you’ll find stark contrasts: Last year we only received 89 catalogues during February, and promotions were down across the gamut of offers we track. What conclusions can be drawn from this? Does increased volume herald a strengthening of the sector? Are mailers confidently investing in upping circulation to lift response? On the other hand, does a more promotional approach indicate that direct sellers are focusing on sales in expense of margin? All thoughts welcome.--MT