Tuesday, 6 September 2011

August Catalogue Log

This September, Direct Commerce launches its new Because Print Works initiative. The campaign’s aim is to ensure that print catalogues, inserts, press and magazine advertising and customer magazines get the full attention and credit they deserve as vital components in the marketing mix for successful multichannel businesses. Happily, to coincide with the launch, last month’s catalogue volume was the highest it’s been for the month of August since we began writing the Catalogue Log.

Offers promoted on August covers
We received 87 catalogues last month, compared with 61 catalogues in August 2010, and 71 catalogues in August 2009. The reason for this uplift? I’ve noticed that in August cataloguers sent a sale catalogue and a new-season mailing. Lakeland, for example mailed a gardening-themed sale catalogue and its 128-page Autumn book, a similar tactic was employed by The White Company and Museum Selection.
Another strategy was to supplement a mailing with inserts in the national press, something Thompson & Morgan did last month. Or to send catalogues in product despatch. I received the main Nisbets catering equipment catalogue in the post, and then received a sale minicatalogue with my order—a pair of tough kitchen scissors, if you’re wondering.  I also liked Dwell’s strategy to send its main furniture catalogue and complement it with the smaller “Decor” title, showcasing its range of home accessories.

Dwell Decor

Also noteworthy was that even with the additional volume the sale and minicatalogues provided, 40 percent of all catalogue covers in August did not make any mention of a special offer. Compare that with July, when the figure was just 31 percent out of 64 catalogues. Of the catalogues that did promote a deal on their covers, a sale or discount was the most popular promotion. Offered by 39 catalogues, or 44.8 percent, discounts ranged from Argos’s “less than half-price” offers on student essentials to Dell’s “save up to £520 on selected systems”. My favourite offer was a Sunday Times insert from Boden, which offered readers 15 percent off, free delivery and returns and a free wash bag for new customers. Regular Catalogue Log readers will remember Boden did the same this time last year and the year before.


No prizes for guessing that the next most popular special offer was free delivery, now commonly teamed with free returns. Promoted on 18.4 percent of the covers we tracked, free shipping was marginally less popular in August than in July (21.9 percent) and appreciably less than in August 2010 (23 percent).  To curb the costs of offering free delivery, many of the cataloguers arriving in our offices offered it over a certain threshold—apparel catalogue M and M Direct, for example, set a £50 minimum order value, while charity catalogue Traidcraft only required customers to spend £15 to qualify for free delivery. At Prelude, the Scotts & Co/Alexon catalogue, customers could enjoy free shipping if they order before 23rd September, a trick to encouraging an early influx of sales.

In contrast, free gifts were more popular in August than they had been in July. In fact, it was the highest figure we’ve noted since April. The offer was promoted on 14.9 percent of catalogue covers, predominantly by gardening and b-to-b mailers such as Van Meuwen, Spalding, Rajapack, and promotional products catalogue IGO Post, which gave customers the choice of a free gift or a £75 discount. Other catalogues touting a free gift were Cotton Traders (a free roll neck with a jacket), Healthy Living Direct (multifunction pocket tool and “two surprise gifts”) and JML, which offered me a free super slicer worth £9.99, if I spend more than £50.
On a side note, we also received our first Christmas catalogues in August—from Findel’s 24Studio and N Brown’s The Brilliant Gift Shop. Interestingly, both these catalogues offer customers the choice to buy on credit. They mail early presumably to encourage customers to spread the cost over the next four months.  Whether “cash-with-order” catalogues will follow suit with early mailings remains to be seen; as we all know, Christmas is getting later every year…--MT

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