The summer sales started in earnest in June. Out of 81 catalogues received last month, 59.3 percent, or 48 catalogues, offered a sale or discount on the front cover. Further, only 29 catalogues had no offer on the cover at all—and of those, at least two had a special offer flyer inserted, or promoted a deal on the back cover. Clearly, cataloguers are being more aggressive in their promotional mail in order to boost revenues and shift stock in time for autumn. But, this tactic comes at a price; at multititle group N Brown, which operates Simply Be, Jacamo, The Shoe Tailor and Marisota, for example, margin in the 18 weeks ended 2nd July declined by 0.2 percent due to discounting. Indeed, of 11 N Brown catalogues and inserts we’ve logged in just the past two months, all had promotional cover lines.
Up until now, July 2010 had been the most sales-dominated month, with 49.5 percent of covers promoting a discount--significantly lower than 2011’s 59.3 percent. For June 2010, 40 percent of covers featured a sale. The year before, discounting was even less popular, with only 34.1 percent of covers promising special prices in June. Does this signal that the sale season is starting earlier every year? Seems so; Marks & Spencer reportedly brought forward its sale by a fortnight this year, fuelling speculation that it was doing it to avoid losing business to other retailers, who were already discounting.
Evidently though, one offer is enough for June’s cataloguers. In a distant second place, the next most popular offer was free delivery, offered by a mere 10 catalogues, or 12.3 percent. This is broadly in line with last year (14.7 percent) and more than June 2009 (8.5 percent). I can only assume that as margins are taking such a hit due to slashed prices, retailers cannot afford to send the goods for free too. Of the catalogues that did offer free shipping, most did so conditionally, for example, free delivery for orders of £100 or more at audio-visual cabling cataloguer Russ Andrews, or free p&p when you shop online at Simply Supplements. Among the more generous offers we noted was a Wiggly Wigglers insert with our order from childrenswear brand Frugi—it featured a 15 percent discount and free delivery to encourage me to place my first order there.
The third most popular offer in June was a free gift with purchase, promoted by 9.8 percent of catalogue covers. This is lower than last year’s 12.8 percent, and significantly lower than June 2009 when we logged 17.8 percent of covers offering a freebie as a thank-you for buying in June.
Our first Catalogue Log blog post was published in June 2009, since then we've learned that:
- To date, 2011 has had the highest percentage of catalogues promoting a sale or discount, with an average of 46.1 percent of catalogues doing so every month.
- Free delivery was most popular in 2010, offered on average by 1 in 5 catalogues per month.
- Offering a free gift with purchase is normally a staple promotion on b-to-b catalogue covers. So far in 2011, an average 13.8 percent of catalogues a month feature a freebie on their front cover.
- Free shipping is not a popular offer in June.
- The most promotional month to date, offering a combination of sales, free p&p or free gifts, was February 2011, when more than two-thirds of catalogues featured some sort of special offer on the cover.
- We received an average of 125 catalogues a month in 2009 and 111 catalogues a month in 2010.
- In the first six months of 2011 we logged a monthly average of 108 catalogues.
- Overall, in terms of volume, we tracked 81 catalogues in June 2010, that’s 8 percent more than last year (75 catalogues), but 42 percent less than June 2009 (140 catalogues).--MT