Wednesday, 3 October 2012

September Catalogue Log

Whereas August is traditionally a low volume month, September is one of the year’s best performers and 2012 didn’t disappoint. We received a whopping 204 catalogues last month, eclipsing August’s haul of 85. What’s more, 204 is the second-highest number we’ve tracked to date; September 2009 still holds the record with 212 catalogues received in one month.

To put it in context with the rest of 2012, in March, the month with the second greatest volume, we'd received 157 catalogues. Or, if you look at it another way, of the 957 catalogues logged during the first nine months of 2012, more than one-fifth (21 percent) were received in September.

I have to make an admission here, more than a third of the catalogues we tracked did not come through the post. We picked up 10 catalogues in-store, 22 inserts in the national and local press or magazines, and 39 catalogues were collected at the Autumn Fair or GLEE trade shows. The addition of those 39 trade catalogues contributed to the highest number of b-to-b catalogues we’ve tracked this year, 58 in total. In fact, 58 is the highest number of business-to-business catalogues to cross my desk in a one-month period since we began logging the catalogues for the purposes of this blog. The previous highest number was 49, received in July 2009 (When we received seven different versions of the Viking catalogue and eight versions of the Neat Ideas, now Staples, catalogue—make of that what you will).
Offers promoted on September covers
While the number of catalogues received in September 2012 soared, the percentage promoting sales and discounts dropped dramatically, from 34.1 percent in August to 23.3 percent in September. Again, that’s a record-breaking figure—the lowest ever. Among those offering a discount were Ashridge Nurseries (5 percent off online orders), Elderberry (10 percent off a £40 spend) and Pia jewellery (15 percent).

Discounts are out, free delivery is in
In contrast to the significant drop in discounting—which has happened for the third month on the trot—the offer of free delivery was on par with the previous month, 18.1 percent in September, compared with 18.8 percent in August. B-to-b mailers Slingsby and Nisbets and b-to-c catalogues Peter Christian and Mint Velvet were among those offering free delivery. Apparel retailer Mint Velvet also teamed up the offer with a 15 percent discount to celebrate the launch of its first catalogue.
Mint Velvet
The percentage of catalogues offering a gift with purchase was a meagre 5.9 percent in September. That’s down from August’s 10.6 percent and the high, in April, of 14 percent. Among September’s gifts-with-purchase were 40 free Narcissus Hawera bulbs with any bulb order at Unwins, a digital radio alarm clock from Fashion World and a cornucopia of gifts at Fishtec, including a filleting set or a tackle and bait bag.

After tracking declines in our each one of the cover lines we monitor, we also noted that almost 61 percent of the catalogues we received featured no offer whatsoever. As we get closer to Christmas it would be interesting to keep an eye on whether the percentage of catalogues offering a discount on the front cover will rise again, or whether cataloguers will continue their shift away from low prices to other special offers, such as free gifts or free delivery.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of the catalogues we track now put their special offers on a separate insert, this is presumably so they can test a variety of offers but print only one version of the catalogue—a money-saving tactic. This was something online tea shop Bettys (free delivery on orders over £30), apparel marketer Cashmere Centre (free £10 gift voucher), art-inspired gifts catalogue Culture Vulture (10 percent off orders of £40 or more) and Myakka (free elephant wall hook or woollen scarf) all did. I would wager that the trend will continue. Perhaps it's time to add another column to the Catalogue Log spreadsheet.--MT

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