Since we began compiling the Catalogue Log back in 2009, we’ve found that August has generally been a low-volume month when it comes to mailings. In 2009, we tallied 71 catalogues, compared to the year’s peak of 184 in October. In 2010, August yielded 61 catalogues, which more than doubled the following month to a haul of 185. In 2011, volume was up 42 percent on the previous year. We tracked 87 catalogues during August 2011, which was more than we received in April, June or July that year.
This year, we totalled 85 catalogues in August, down 2 percent on 2011, but up 25 percent on July, suggesting that mailers may be starting to distribute their new-season catalogues earlier this year. Further corroborating that theory is the fact that August had the lowest percentage of promotional cover lines in 2012, signalling perhaps that retailers are reticent to discount on autumn goods this early in the season.
Twenty-nine of the catalogues we received in August--34.1 percent--featured a discount or sale on the cover, including Brook Taverner, the revamped Cox & Cox catalogue and Wall London. Again, that’s a record-breaking figure for 2012 and the lowest since November 2011. It’s a sharp decline from the high we experienced in June 2012, when 56.8 percent of covers include a special price promotion on the front cover.
Despite discounts being less popular than preceding months August trumped June and July in the percentage of catalogues touting free shipping. Sixteen of the 85 catalogues we logged in August—18.8 percent—promised free delivery, just a smidge higher than June’s 18.5 percent, and July’s 17.6 percent. They included Scotts of Stow, Russ Andrews, and Big Man’s Shop, which in addition to offering customers free delivery on their orders, used the covering letter to introduce the company’s new owner and relocation from Cornwall to Bristol. Knitwear marketer Tulchan sent us two catalogues, both offering free delivery on orders of £50 or more, but only one that offered an additional 10 percent discount to sweeten the deal.
Free gifts also saw a resurgence in August. Boden, Coopers of Stortford and Laithwaites all sought to tempt customers with items such as a free shopping bag, a pen and case set and a slate serving board and knife. Bits and Pieces, a gifts catalogue featuring a “Special Introductory PricesGiant Tortoise Garden Sculpture” on its front cover, promised customers a free 500-piece puzzle on all orders.
We can’t end the August Catalogue Log without mentioning the Olympic Games and their impact on catalogue volume and promotions. Last month, I noticed very few mailers making the most of the opportunity. This was evident again in August. What’s more, at 85 catalogues, volume was more or less in line with last year, meaning the Games had a negligible effect on circulation—much as they appear to have had on sales in general during the period.--MT