Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The January Catalogue Log

Catalogue volume plummeted in January. We logged just 61 catalogues last month, compared with 110 in December and 150 in January 2011. There are a number of theories for why this is the case. First, keen to maximise marketing spend, cataloguers are cleaning their lists and removing unprofitable names—such as ours. As we don’t buy from most of the catalogues we receive, it’s easy to see why we may not receive every mailing. The second reason could be internal changes; staff holidays have meant there were fewer Catalogue Log researchers active in January. Another likely reason is that because we received so many catalogues in the last week of December, heralding the start of the sale period, all the “usual suspects” had already mailed their January editions, albeit a week or so earlier than we would normally receive them.

January Offers Chart

Sixty-one catalogues is the lowest figure since August 2010, which saw an equal number of catalogues cross my desk. However, this year we can’t blame postal strikes or bad weather for a decline in volume. We’ll never know for sure why January was so different to previous years—or even previous months—but it will be interesting to compare February’s volume next month to see whether the negative trend continues.

But enough cogitating; back to the stats. Traditionally the month for sales, more than half of the catalogues we tracked in January (52.5 percent) featured some sort of special offer on the front cover. Not surprising, the most popular offer was a sale or a discount at 45.9 percent of covers. That’s roughly equal to January 2011, when 44.0 percent of covers featured a price-based promotion and marginally ahead of January 2010, which saw 43.5 percent of catalogues promote discounted prices on the cover. Business-to-business mailers led the way with discounts this January, with Nisbets, 4imprint and Furniture @ Work all offering cut prices. In the consumer sector, The White Company, Crew Clothing and Saltwater all gave us money off our order.

Showing a steady decline in popularity, free delivery was promoted on only nine of the 61 catalogues we received, or 14.8 percent. This is down from 16 percent in January 2011 and 21.4 percent in the same month 2010. What’s more, of those nine catalogues, each one teamed free delivery up with a discount as well. For example, the Tulchan winter sale catalogue promised up to 60 percent off plus free postage when customers spent £50 or more. Meanwhile, Charles Tyrwhitt’s 44-page sale catalogue delivered savings of up to 73 percent, “plus free delivery on prompt orders”.

Free gifts were promoted on only four catalogue covers last month: Viking offered us free business cards, Coopers of Stortford and Serious Readers both promoted a free book light, while a free fleece to protect our garden during winter was promised by Harrod Horticultural.

As a final point, while the Catalogue Log only tracks offers made on the front page, it’s worth noting that many mailers choose to promote special offers on separate inserts or address sheets, keeping their covers free from promotions. Verdict, Long Tall Sally and Sarah Raven Kitchen & Garden are among those cataloguers choosing to do so in January. This tactic then allows them to test special offers to different parts of the database. This idea got me thinking, so I took a look at some of the hardest working carrier sheets we’ve come across, and one of the laziest, in another post: Carry on addressing.--MT

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