Sunday, 9 June 2013

Home Leisure Direct wins Direct Commerce Readers' Choice Award

As part of the ECMOD annual celebration of excellence, the Direct Commerce Readers’ Choice trophy is given to companies that have demonstrated an affinity with their customers and the wider sector.

It is awarded for continuous innovation and customer service and this year is a fitting tribute to the commitment of the team at Home Leisure Direct, which received comments like “great branding”, “sophisticated website” and “super-clear communications”.

Bristol-based Home Leisure Direct was selected as a business which innovates, inspires and consistently delivers exceptional service, making it one of the most sought-after accolades of the ceremony. Watch the video below to see the Home Leisure Direct team pick up their trophy at this year's venda-ecmod awards, which took place at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club on 18th April.

Founded in 2007 by husband and wife team Michelle and Andy Beresford, the idea for Home Leisure Direct came after they spotted a gap in the UK market for style-conscious customers who wanted to create games rooms in their own homes.

The duo instantly set about sourcing what has now become the largest selection of games room equipment in Europe. From their humble beginnings with a small home office and an old computer, 2012 saw the business move into a large showroom in Elberton, where it now employs six staff. Last year also saw the company undergo a rebrand and launch a new version of the website, a dedicated mobile site, Home Leisure TV and a raft of behind-the-scenes improvements to enhance the customer experience with the help of digital agency Bluebox.

With customers all across the UK and Europe, the Beresfords have seen their business go from strength to strength. The website has been a consistent success and since 2008 turnover has increased by more than 1,300 percent. What’s more, sales this year have risen 34 percent despite the much-publicised tough trading conditions. These achievements are testament to the passion and commitment of the entire Home Leisure team, its suppliers and of course, its customers.--MT

The Direct Commerce Readers Choice award was sponsored by Sanderson

Thursday, 6 June 2013

May Catalogue Log

May 2013 represents the fifth consecutive month to show a decline in the number of catalogues promoting a sale or discount. Of the 86 catalogues we logged last month, only 23 (26.7 percent) featured a price promotion on the front page, compared with 33.6 percent in April 2013 and a whopping 50 percent in May 2012.

Discounts take a dive in May
At the same time, the popularity of free delivery continues. Eighteen out of the 86 catalogues (20.9 percent) offered free shipping—closing the gap between the two most popular offers we track. While that percentage is slightly down on April (23.5 percent), it’s more or less in line with May last year (21.2 percent).  Among the catalogues offering free delivery were Atterley Road, Great Plains, Joe Browns and Patra—and all did so without teaming up free p&p with a discount.

Discussing the issue with colleagues, we believe the continued decline of discounting in favour of offers like free shipping is down to cataloguers seeking to avoid devaluing their brand. With discounts so prevalent last year, perhaps some cataloguers are coming to realise that it’s not a race to the bottom. Offering money off trains consumers to expect to pay a certain price—and no more. Free shipping on the other hand, while still a burden on profits, does not cast the same shadow about how much goods are worth.

Only 7 percent of the catalogues we logged in May offered a free gift with purchase, compared with 8.8 percent last May and 10.9 percent in April 13. Usually the preserve of b-to-b cataloguers and gardening brands, last month we also tallied offers from apparel retailers; among them Witt, Seasalt and Madeleine Fashion.

Another decline we’ve tracked is the overall volume of catalogues we’ve received. At 86, May’s haul is the smallest of 2013 to date and down by a quarter on this time last year. Again, I feel this might be due to cataloguers keeping a close eye on mailing costs and removing unprofitable prospects from their lists. Saying that, we logged 119 catalogues in April 2013—28 percent more than the comparable month last year—so maybe the decline is more a seasonal choice than anything else. --MT

If you’d like to have your catalogue featured in the Catalogue Log, please send it to
Catalogue Log
c/o Direct Commerce
First Floor Offices
155 High Street
EX34 9EZ

Friday, 31 May 2013

In the Mail - May

It’s the last day of May, so we’ve taken this opportunity to take a look back at the catalogues we’ve received during the month to pick out three that stood out.

Capability’s Essentials

Format: 265mm x 200mm, 60pp, order form on inside back cover
Special offer on the cover: no
Range: “unusual, practical and fun” gifts and gadgets
Delivery: £4.99 standard, additional charge
Why I picked it: this is a revamped Essentials by Post catalogue from the folks at Presents for Men. Named after the famed English landscape artist Capability Brown, the catalogue looks to target to likeminded garden lovers with practical items like knee pads, thorn protection gloves and “barrow boosters”, though it has plenty for those who aren't as green-thumbed. With a more unisex appeal than its sister titles Presents for Men and Gifts for the Girls, the website suggests this will become an umbrella catalogue, incorporating items from across the full range. We can certainly see it working as a prospecting catalogue for new or lapsed customers to (re)introduce them to the brand before targeting them more closely with its specialist titles.
What’s missing: The cover could do with a special offer and maybe some product shots to entice people to take a look inside.

Format: 147mm x 209mm, 20pp, order form on inside back cover
Special offer on the cover: 15% off
Range: “fashion with hidden technology”
Delivery: catalogue has not published delivery charges
Why I picked it: although I’d heard of the brand, this is the first print catalogue I’ve received from HotSquash. Not just the preserve of base-layer wearing joggers, HotSquash’s thermal/cooling fabrics are for wearing all day long. The product photography is excellent and the range broad enough to warrant several flicks though. The catalogue definitely succeeds in making me want to find out more about the technology in the clothes—and see more of the range online. Another plus—the clothes are designed and made in Britain.
What’s missing: The product copy is sparse and there is no size guide or delivery costs.

I Love Gorgeous
Format: 235mm x 165mm, 40pp, how to order information on inside back cover
Special offer on the cover: free p&p and returns with a customer’s first order
Range: “beautiful clothes for gorgeous girls”
Delivery: £4.50 standard, £6.95 for UK express, £15 for same-day delivery for customers living within the M25
Why I picked it: the I Love Gorgeous catalogue lives up to its name with adorable outfits for girls. The catalogue follows many industry best practices by including a size guide, delivery costs, information on returns and gift wrapping, as well as an incentive to sign up to its newsletter and receive a special discount. Top marks.
What’s missing: Because of the paper stock, it can be difficult to see the detailing on some of the items. --MT

Want to have your catalogue considered for our In the Mail column. Post it to
Catalogue Log
Direct Commerce
First Floor Offices, 155 High St
Ilfracombe, Devon
EX34 9EZ

Friday, 24 May 2013

Email we love: Feelunique

How’s this for a really clever—and sensible—use of technology? I placed an order with beauty products etailer Feelunique and instantly received an order confirmation email. So far, so standard.

A couple of days later my order was delivered and signed for by my boyfriend while I was not at home. I received an email just two hours later: “your recent order was successfully delivered to you at 11:48 today & was signed for by…” followed by a screenshot of my boyfriend’s autograph. Nifty, eh?—MT

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Catalogue we love: George

Heading straight to the top of the class is George with its second-ever catalogue.

Received towards the end of April, the catalogue adheres to several best-practice guidelines.

The bright and inviting front cover highlights clear benefits of shopping with George, such as free delivery to store and an “exclusive” discount.

The back cover repeats the discount and features a call to action to check out the website for “even more”.

Inside, page 3 does a great job of advising customers how they can shop and further promotes the discount, while the rest of the catalogue uses QR codes, celebrity style ideas and cross-selling tactics to engage with customers.

My only criticism is that at only 16 pages, it left me wanting more. —MT

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

April Catalogue Log

Bodie and Fou
After four months of heavy discounting, April’s haul of catalogues was a lot less promotional. We logged 119 catalogues in April 2013—a 28 percent increase on April 2012. However, whereas last April saw 63 percent of catalogues feature some sort of special offer on the cover, this year only 54 percent did so.

At individual-offer level, the biggest recorded decline came in the number of catalogues that promoted a sale or discount. In April 2012, 40.9 percent of the catalogues we tracked did so. March 2013 saw a similar level of discounting—41.3 percent of covers. Last month, that dropped to 33.6 percent, the lowest level since November 2012.

Among those using special-price promotions was the spring/summer Bodie and Fou catalogue, which offered customers 15 percent off when they spent £100 or more. Furniture retailer Myakka promised customers 12 percent off their first order, while living-aids catalogue Elderberry encouraged customers to shop and save 10 percent on orders of £45 or more.

Twenty-eight of the catalogues we received in April (23.5 percent) made mention on free shipping on the cover. That’s marginally down on March 2013, but in line with the far more promotional April 2012, proving once again that free delivery is become ever more popular with cataloguers. Of those 28 catalogues, many teamed up free p&p with another offer—a tactic popular among apparel catalogues Gray & Osbourn (20 percent off plus free postage and returns), Figleaves (10 percent off plus free delivery and returns) and Boden (15 percent off plus free delivery and returns), for example.  Those that elected to use free shipping as a solo offer to tempt customers were predominantly b-to-b cataloguers such as Toolstation, Nisbets and Viking

April Offers Chart

Free gifts were less popular in April 2013 than they were at the same time last year. They were also less popular than in March 2013. Just 13 catalogue covers of the 119 we logged last month offered a freebie with purchase—that’s just 10.9 percent. However, putting it into a wider context, 10.9 percent is quite high when you consider that the average for the whole of 2012 was just 7.9 percent.

Looking at the data, free gifts are most popular during March, April, May and August. My theory is that those are prime mailing times for gardening and business-to-business catalogues, which tend to be the most prevalent users of free gift promotions.

On a side note; have you picked up your copy of the Abacus Trends Report yet? The third Annual Trends Report from Abacus is the data cooperative’s most comprehensive to date. This new-look edition features the home shopping revenue trends and mailing volumes of 2012—and makes reference to our very own Catalogue Log data. In addition, it includes interviews with key industry figures including Rosemary Stockdale of Sterling Marketing, More2’s Kevin McSpadden and Direct Commerce editorial director Miri Thomas. Download your copy on the Abacus website.--MT

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Venda-ECMOD Awards Highlights Video

If your memory of the venda-ecmod awards 2013 is a little hazy, you might want to check out this video.

Held at Chelsea Football Club on 18th April, the venda-ecmod awards recognise the hard work, flair and commitment of businesses in the catalogue and multichannel retail sector. With categories designed for those targeting sales to businesses as well as for those selling to consumers, these awards also seek to celebrate the achievements of businesses of all scales and at all stages of development.

Recapping the highlights from the night, including backstage interviews with the delighted winners, this video catches up with our sector’s very own champions.--MT

Congratulations winners!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Multichannel retailers celebrate excellence at venda-ecmod awards

Online, catalogue and multichannel retailers representing the full spectrum of the sector celebrated success at the venda-ecmod direct commerce awards on Thursday, 18th April 2013.

Now in their 15th year, these annual awards recognise the hard work, flair and commitment of businesses in the catalogue and multichannel retail sector. With categories designed for those targeting sales to businesses as well as for those selling to consumers, these awards also seek to celebrate the achievements of businesses of all scales and at all stages of development.

Held this year at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club, the awards were presented by Sky News anchor Dermot Murnaghan.

Best Multichannel Business CategoryB2B – annual sales up to £5 million: ESE Direct
Consumer – annual sales up to £5 million: Bloom
B2B – annual sales of £5 million - £30 million: International Dance Supplies
Consumer – annual sales of £5 million - £30 million: Scotts of Stow
Consumer – annual sales over £30 million: Charles Tyrwhitt

Consumer Categories
Children’s Sector: Great Little Trading Co
Womenswear & Accessories: BoPeeps
Menswear & Accessories: Loake Shoemakers
Home including Food & Wine: Victoria Plumb
Gardening & Outdoors: Hingstons
Gifts & Gadgets: The Handpicked Collection
Luxury Brands: Wall London
Charity Trading Operation: RNLI (Sales)

Business-to-Business Categories
Industrial & Warehouse Supplies: ESE Direct
Hotel, Restaurant, Catering: Lyco
Education & Teaching: TTS
Maintenance, Facilities Management: Lyco

Best Catalogue Creative & Production: Seasalt
Best Website: Direct Golf
Best Mobile Commerce Site: Diamond Manufacturers
Best Use of Social Media: Littlewoods
Exploitation of Technology - businesses with sales up to £25 million: This Works
Exploitation of Technology - businesses with sales over £25 million: Argos
Outstanding Customer Service: Bureau Direct
Direct Commerce Readers' Choice: Home Leisure Direct - commended for customer service and continuous innovation.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Nick Wheeler of Charles Tyrwhitt and Chrissie Rucker of The White Company for their contribution to the catalogue and home shopping sector. Previous recipients of the lifetime achievement award include Peter Harris and Angus Thirlwell of Hotel Chocolat, Fran Cotton of Cotton Traders, Johnnie Boden of Boden and Tony Laithwaite of Direct Wines.

The competition was fierce and although not crowned winners, the following companies were highly commended by the panel of independent ECMOD judges. 
•    Thompson & Morgan 
•    Worldstores 
•    Long Tall Sally 
•    Railbookers 
•    Bodie and Fou

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Jessops video review

At the end of March, Dragons’ Den star and entrepreneur Peter Jones relaunched the Jessops business. He’s ploughed £4 million of his own money into the business and forecasts sales of £80 million in the first year. But can the Jessops website deliver on this ambitious aim? I take a look in this video review--MT.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


Top names including Argos, Diamond Manufacturers, Seasalt, Victoria Plumb and WorldStores, have all made it onto the prestigious venda-ecmod direct commerce awards shortlist.

Celebrating business excellence among cataloguers and multichannel marketers, the shortlist includes companies in the running for all categories, including the Direct Commerce Readers’ Choice Award, outstanding customer service, best catalogue creative and production, and best use of social media.

The full list, in alphabetical order:

Argos, Atterley Road, BigDug, Bloom, Bodie and Fou, BoPeeps, Bureau Direct, Charles Tyrwhitt, Diamond Manufacturers, Direct Golf UK, ESE Direct, Firebox, Great Little Trading Co, Handpicked Collection, Hingstons, Home Leisure Direct, International Dance Supplies, John Lewis, Lakeland, Littlewoods, Loake Shoemakers, Long Tall Sally, Lyco, Railbookers, RNLI (Sales), Scotts of Stow, Seasalt, The White Company, This Works, Thompson & Morgan, Toast, TTS, Victoria Plumb, Wall, WorldStores.

All entrants on the shortlist have undergone a rigorous judging process by a panel of independent judges, with the final winners announced on the evening of 18th April at a fabulous gala dinner awards event at Chelsea Football Club. Sky TV presenter Dermot Murnaghan will present trophies to the winner in each category, with a special—and top secret—lifetime achievement award also in the pipeline.

Tickets for the event may be purchased subject to availability. Call 01271-866112 or email to secure your seat.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Email we love: The Gift Library

Whereas this February’s Catalogue Log bemoaned the lack of mailers’ springtime originality, email marketers are wooing us with a little more creativity. Our favourite email of the spring so far is from the Gift Library.

Titled “Love your Dog, Love your Garden: New Arrivals to put a Spring in your Step”, we were instantly won over by the subject line. We were then greeted by an adorable pooch and his training whistle and a selection of just seven items to peruse, meaning we weren’t overwhelmed by too much choice. We also love the way the email lays out its top picks, the greys and browns contrasting with the red rose and shiny watering can.

Finally, by using the teaser “Introducing Maslin & Co… find out more”, we were intrigued enough to click through and explore. All proving that the Gift Library has done its homework when it comes to email marketing best practice.--MT

Thursday, 4 April 2013

March Catalogue Log

Over the past few years the Catalogue Log has tracked how, to boost sales, marketers are experimenting with promotions. While price cuts are by far the most common offer, free delivery is creeping up the popularity charts.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain email subject lines that almost guarantee I am going to open the email. The first is Your Order Has Been Despatched, which I click on to check delivery times and status. The second is Free Delivery. No Minimum Spend. Just last week a skincare brand elicited a buy response from me by sending a well-timed email. I was already in the market to buy a cleanser to replenish my depleting stocks and although my preference was for that brand, the delivery charge put me off. I was seriously considering buying a similar item from another online retailer that offers unconditional free shipping on all items instead. That free delivery email won saved the sale.

What is becoming evident from the Catalogue Log data we’ve collected is that the popularity of free delivery on email is filtering into print. We thought February was a record-breaking month, with 27.2 percent of catalogue covers promoting free shipping. March topped that with 28.9 percent, or 35 catalogues. As the chart below shows, the month of March has experienced a steady increase in the number of catalogues touting free p&p, while the use of other promotions has remained relatively constant. 

Overall we received 121 catalogues in March 2013, a staggering 23 percent drop on last year’s haul of 157. A quick glance at the list shows we didn’t receive a mailing from Lakeland or Misco last month, but we did get a Lego catalogue and Tandy Leather buyer’s guide. Other new names last month included Cornwall-based Poppy Treffry, fashion etailer Atterley Road and the Organic Gardening Catalogue.

Still the most popular promotion, 41.3 percent of catalogues promoted a sale or a discount on their front cover. Interestingly, a similar percentage (39.7 percent) featured no offer at all. One offer that stood out was from the Folio Society. It promoted the Times Atlas, a publication the Folio Society says is worth £150, for just £9.95. Is it just me, or does that have the wrong effect on the concept of “perceived value”?

There was somewhat of a resurgence in the number of catalogues offering a free gift with purchase in March. One in eight (12.4 percent) catalogue covers promised a freebie, compared to less than one in 10 (8 percent) in February. The gifts included a free silk tie from Charles Tyrwhitt, free pearl earrings from a Daily Mail reader offers catalogue, mini digital kitchen scales from Fashion World and a “Spring is in the Air” tote bag from The Owl Barn, among others.

I promised last month that I would share my favourite covers of the season. Sadly, no Easter-related covers really grabbed me, but the Spring catalogue from Hotter scores top marks. It features the strapline Shoes to fall in love with immediately drawing the reader in. The cover evokes happy days by the lake, and the addition of a dot whack offering 20% off your first order plus free delivery is a welcome added bonus.

Selling “comfy” shoes, Hotter doesn’t fall into the trap of forgetting about fashion. The models are young and photographed having fun—on swings and hammocks with young children, lazing in classic cars, even exercising. The colour scheme is pastel, reminiscent of spring blossoms and flowering gardens. The copy’s spot on too: The smart heels in our Signature Collection are more than a little out of the ordinary. That’s not just because they come in beautiful brights and soft neutral shades (though they do), it’s because of the Comfort Concept features in every pair! Flexible, super soft, with luxurious pillow soft underfoot cushioning that you’ll feel in every step – bliss! I’m not the target demographic, but this catalogue has me tempted.--MT

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

There's still time to nominate your favourite for an ECMOD Award

Everyone loves a winner!
That’s why we are inviting you to tell us which client-side businesses you think deserve to win the 2013 Direct Commerce Readers’ Award. As a special thank you we’ll enter you in our free draw so that you could win one of two pairs of VIP tickets for the prestigious ECMOD Direct Commerce Awards Presentation Dinner event at Chelsea Football Club on April 18th 2013.

Click here to download the form which can be emailed or faxed back. 

As part of the ECMOD annual celebration of excellence, the Direct Commerce and DC Weekly Readers’ Award is all important category – with the winner chosen by you and your fellow Direct Commerce magazine and DC Weekly newsletter readers. As such, it has extra special meaning and is greatly valued.

Everyone has at least one sector business they have high regard for. This is your opportunity to show support for the businesses which innovate and inspire you, which consistently deliver exceptional service to you as a customer, and which truly deserve the very special accolade of an ECMOD Direct Commerce Readers’ Award.

Make your choice by downloading the official form to nominate up to THREE client side businesses - B2B and/or B2C, which sell via direct channels - catalogues, online, TV, press ads. Tell us why you've chosen them in up to 25 words and add your own details so we can verify your nomination as well as enter you in the prize draw for one of the two pairs of VIP tickets.

Closing date for nominations is Friday, 22nd March 2013.

Click here to download the form which can be emailed or faxed back.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Dates confirmed for ECMOD Direct Commerce Live 2013

The organisers of the annual show for multichannel retailers and direct b-to-b marketers have announced new dates and a vibrant new venue for 2013.

Taking place at Olympia Conference & East Hall, an integrated area with purpose built conference rooms, a plush auditorium plus exhibition hall, “ecmod direct commerce live” will take place on September 17-18 2013.

“Bringing the dates forward from November to September reflects demand from our core audience which had also expressed a desire to see the show return to West London from its previous North London venue,” said Caroline Saich, event producer. “We are really excited to have secured this lovely integrated venue and will be announcing our full conference line-up very soon”.

For further information – on visiting or attending the conference – please call 01271 866112 or email

Direct Commerce magazine will be covering the show extensively this year and has planned a special preview feature in the August issue. To enquire about advertising and sponsorship opportunities, email

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Three cheers for mum

Mother’s Day used to mean flowers, a card and breakfast in bed, but more and more retailers are starting to use Mothering Sunday as a hook to promote other products. Here’s a quick look at the early bird emails we received before 1st March celebrating mums in 2013.

Whittard of Chelsea
 I love tea. A lot. So when Whittard of Chelsea suggests I buy mum a tea hamper, it feels as though the email has been personalised based on my penchant for traditional tea varieties, rather than what she’d like. If I bought this for my mum, I’d definitely have to go round more often to help her drink it all. Curiously, the email doesn’t mention how much these hampers cost, which makes a change from the usual price-driven emails received at this time of year.


Oh So Cherished 
I like that the email from gifts and personalised stationery marketer Oh So Cherished comes with a reminder of the date with the title “My Beautiful Mum Gifts - 10th March 2013”. But I’m not quite sure who the audience for the email is. Oh So Cherished’s customers are women aged 22 to 45 years old, would they buy a “My Beautiful Mummy Handbag Mirror” or an “I Love My Mummy Book”? I can definitely see dads buying this on behalf of the little ones, but are enough dads going to receive this message? Perhaps Oh So Cherished should have prompted the recipient to share the email with her loved ones with a big “hint, hint” call to action. Or picked more “grown up” suggestions like necklaces, memory books, personalised compacts, leather albums or pen gift sets like the ones we found on the carefully curated Mother’s Day landing page on the Oh So Cherished website.

Occa Home

My favourite Mother’s Day email of 2013 so far, for a couple of reasons, is from Occa-Home. The first reason: it’s the first I’ve seen for the often-forgotten mother-in-law. Second, the subject line raised an unintentional smile: “Don’t Forget your Mother in Law - Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price”.--MT

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

February Catalogue Log

We received 88 catalogues in February, a 6 percent decline on last year’s 94 and a 20 percent slide on the 104 we collected in February 2011. Out of those 88 catalogues we logged, 42 included the word Spring in the title. From the plain Spring 2013, to Early Spring 2013 and even Late Spring 2013. A further six catalogues included the word Winter. Yet in that same haul, only one catalogue, jewellery marketer Argento, mentioned Valentine’s Day.

While naming a catalogue edition Valentine’s Selection, or Valentine’s Gift Guide, may limit the sort of merchandise it carries and its potential “shelf-life”, sticking to the same titles time and again gets boring and formulaic. At worst, it can train the customer to delay a purchase and wait until the next mailing, which he knows will be your Spring Sale.

Incorporating seasonal events like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter into a catalogue provides the perfect opportunity to try something a little different, so why don’t more catalogues do it? I would like to see cataloguers mix it up a bit. The experts call it, “tapping into the recipient’s emotions”.

In an article for Direct Commerce magazine, published in 2011, Ian Simpson of catalogue design specialist Catalogues 4 Business wrote: “I learned a long time ago that selling is rational; buying is emotional.” Speaking specifically about Christmas in his example, Simpson says it “is important to show your customers you recognise it is a special time of year and you have been working hard to bring some extra-special products”, but his advice can be applied to other seasons too. So, isn’t it time you tried something new to connect with what your customer might feel about this time of year. Instead of just Spring 2013, how about New Spring Collection, or Fresh for Spring, or Springtime Essentials, or even Mother’s Day Gifts and New Ideas for Spring? I’m sure you can do better than that, but you admit that they’re more evocative than simply Spring? It’s worth a test, surely? (Though don’t get too zany. I received a catalogue recently titled Squeezy Fun.)

February's Offers Chart

But I digress. Back to the stats and the February Catalogue Log tracked a decline in the percentage of catalogues offering a discount or special price promotion. Forty-four percent (39 catalogues) offered customers money off in February 2013, compared with 46 percent in 2012 and 49 percent in 2011. Shirtmaker Charles Tyrwhitt relied heavily on discounts last month. We received five different Charles Tyrwhitt catalogues in February 2013, each with a slightly different offer: From a saving of £47 for Naked Wines customers, to an extra £5 for readers of the Sunday Times to a free woven silk tie as a special introductory offer featured in a 36-page catalogue.

On the subject of free gifts, only six other catalogues offered a freebie—though that’s two more than this time last year. Among the gifts were begonias and biscuits, from a gardening and an office supplies catalogue, respectively. A quick glance at the chart above shows just how the popularity of free gifts has declined in recent months. The staple promotion for many b-to-b mailers, my first assumption is that we’re not getting as many business catalogues as we used to. My second theory is that free gifts are not seen as desirable any more—certainly not attractive enough for a mention on the front page.

In contrast, the chart also shows the popularity of free delivery steadily rising. We tallied 24 catalogues (27.2 percent) of front covers touting free shipping, conditional or otherwise. That’s the highest percentage we’ve logged to date, putting October 2012 into second place. Free p&p is emerging as the universal promotion of choice and in February was promoted by catalogues from across the home shopping gamut, including the gardening sector (The Canny Gardener), apparel (Great Plains), trade goods (Ironmongery Direct), food (Bettys) and industrial equipment (Welco).

All told, 60 percent of the catalogues we logged in February featured some sort of promotion on the cover making it more promotional than February 2012, but still behind February 2011, when two-thirds of catalogues carried promotional cover lines.

With Mother’s Day falling early this March, I’m not expecting many catalogue covers to promote it, but with Easter coming up at the end of the month, next month’s Catalogue Log will be back to share the best covers of the season. If you think your next edition can wow us, send a copy to The Catalogue Log, c/o Direct Commerce Magazine, First Floor Offices, 155 High Street, Ilfracombe, EX34 9EZ.--MT

Friday, 8 February 2013

Always take the weather

Getting weather-related emails right is trickier than it first appears. While a cold spell can work well as an anchor for a promotional email, marketers need to be careful they’re not too flippant as to offend people badly affected by the stormy weather. Here are a few examples of recent snow-related emails that hit the mark for us:

Presents for Men

We like to consider ourselves practical shoppers, which is why this email from Presents for Men has a particular appeal. Titled “Ready for the big freeze? Best cold weather gadgets”, the email features a main image of a duck with the accompanying copy: “Are you ready for the first big freeze of 2013? Essential gadgets to duck the cold weather”. Below that is a selection of handy cold-weather goods like windscreen covers, hand warmers and ice grips. We also thought that its plug for sister brand Travel Paraphernalia & Outdoor Leisure showing a sunny, waterside scene was a nice touch—nothing like daydreaming about our next holiday to help beat the January blues.

Speaking of which, “Beat the January blues with our outstanding offers!!” is the subject line of an email from cookware retailer Procook.  Packed with ideas like what to do with the kids because school is closed, to tastier ways to keep our healthy eating resolutions, there’s even a competition to “really brighten up your day!”


We also didn’t fail to notice how the colour scheme shifts from bleak to sunny as we scrolled down the email—a  neat trick.

Another subject line that caught our eye was “Snowed in? Warm up with our fabulous Winter Offers…” from Feather & Black. Sadly, this was the only reference to the snow in the email, which could have been titled “Up To 50% Off + Further Savings With This Week’s Special Offers!”, as per the first line of text in the email. Still, the message is loud and clear: don’t bother getting out of bed. Stay in and shop online to make your home even cosier.--MT

Feather & Black

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

January Catalogue Log

The snow and ice we experienced throughout January didn't seem to impact on catalogue volume. We received 114 catalogues at the Direct Commerce offices last month, that’s 50 percent more than December and a whopping 87 percent more than we received in January 2012, when we logged a paltry 61 catalogues.

As well as the usual factors we track—percentage of catalogues featuring a discount, free delivery or free gift offer on the cover—we noted that January is prime mailing time for gardening catalogues. We received catalogues from Chiltern Seeds, Dobies, Marshalls, Pomona Fruits, Unwins, and garden structures specialist Agriframes. January is also a time for thinking about the summer holidays with a bunch of newspaper inserts and standalone mailings featuring travel deals. Now there’s an image of Britishness for you: we’re a nation of gardeners who dream about more exotic climes.

Another major theme of the catalogues we logged in January was, of course, the January sales. I counted 56 catalogue covers, or 49.1 percent, mentioning a special price promotion. Boden was one of the most prolific mailers with three separate catalogues: a 12-page catalogue featuring 10 percent off, free delivery, free returns and £15 off a first order; a 196-page book with 10 percent off, free delivery and returns and a 268-page catalogue also promoting 10 percent off and free delivery and returns. I've since received another Boden catalogue, this time offering 15 percent off, free delivery and free returns.

Given that it’s January, you’d think that the percentage of catalogues touting a discount would be higher than during the run-up to Christmas, but that’s not entirely the case. While 49 percent is higher than we experienced in September, October and November, it’s still considerably lower than the 59 percent we logged in December.

Free delivery was roughly in line with pre-Christmas levels, with 21.9 percent of the catalogues we tracked featuring a free p&p offer on the cover, compared with 18.4 percent in December and 21 percent in November. Apart from Boden, other mailers choosing to tempt us with free shipping were Lakeland (free on purchases of £30 or more), silk-flowers specialist Bloom (on orders of £60 or more) and the Duvet & Pillow Warehouse, which teamed up its free delivery offer with a half-price sale.

January had even more in common with November, with the percentage of catalogues offering a free gift being exactly 7 percent for each month. I liked the tactic from b-to-b mailer Viking which, on the same cover, gave away a gym ball set AND a whole jar of retro sweets.

On a final note, kudos to Bettys for its early-bird approach to February’s biggest retail event, Valentine’s Day. It mailed us an edition titled Celebrations and Valentine’s Day in January, proving it’s never too early to think about cake.--MT

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

December Catalogue Log

Last year must have been the anomaly. The exception to the rule. We tallied 110 catalogues in December 2011, compared with 66 in December 2010 and just 62 in December 2009. In 2012, we returned to similar volumes logging 76 catalogues last month. That’s the third lowest figure of the year.
Catalogue Volume 2012-2012

I can spend all day speculating why the volume has declined December-on-December. Maybe we’ve dropped off some prospect lists. It could also be that last December was a test, with cataloguers experimenting with the option of mailing Christmas offers later and January sales earlier. Perhaps we didn’t buy as many newspapers last month, and therefore didn’t see as many inserts as last year—or it’s possible that there were fewer inserts altogether. Maybe more cataloguers migrated to email promotions this year—at a quick count I received more than 35 emails from multichannel retailers on Christmas Day, including one titled “Sale - Only 364 Days Until Next Christmas”.

Whatever the reason, while catalogue volume went down, the use of promotions rocketed. Almost two-thirds of the catalogues we received in December 2012 (64.5 percent) featured some sort of special offer on the cover. Incidentally, December was second only to June in the number of promotional cover lines.

December does however take the crown for being the most discount-driven month of the year. Some 59.2 percent of all the catalogues we received promoted a sale on the cover, including a significant number of furniture retailers such as DFS, Debenhams, Tesco, Barker & Stonehouse and Aspace. Other retailers choosing to publish their special price offers on the cover included Hawkin’s Bazaar, JoJo Maman Bebe and Maplin.

Offers promoted on catalogue covers
In December 2011, we experienced a steep decline in the number of catalogues promoting free p&p on the cover compared to the preceding month—falling from approximately 21 percent to 11 percent. In 2012, we saw no such drama. Roughly 18 percent of the catalogues we tracked promoted free shipping, more or less the same as August and September, and only marginally down on November’s 21 percent. We tallied free delivery offers from fashion label Me&Em, countrywear catalogue Joseph Turner and at gardening brand Thompson & Morgan.

In December, the least popular among the offers we track were free gifts. We counted just three catalogues, or 3.9 percent, promoting a freebie. Christmas not so much a time for giving, it seems…

Average taken over the whole year
2012 in catalogues

Here you go fact fans, a roundup of the headline stats of the Catalogue Log:

* In total, Direct Commerce logged in 1390 catalogues in 2012. That’s a 29 fewer than we received in 2011, representing a 2 percent drop. On the bright side, 2012 was up 4 percent on 2010.

* September was the month with the greatest volume, when a total of 204 catalogues were tallied. We received only 61 catalogues in January.
September was also the least promotional month of the year and the one with the highest number of business-to-business catalogues received.

* The most promotional month was June, when more than two-third of the catalogues we received (67.9 percent) mentioned at least one special offer on the cover.

* The most discount-driven month in 2012 was December when 59.2 percent of the catalogue covers we logged touted a price-based promotion. The least popular month for sales was September (23.3 percent)

* Free delivery was most popular in October (26.3 percent) but least popular in January (14.8 percent).

* Free gifts were appreciably less popular in 2012 compared with 2011. The month with the most freebies was April. The fewest number of catalogues promoting a free gift with purchase was recorded in July—just 2.9 percent. --MT

Monday, 7 January 2013

Tips for social success

In a session at ECMOD 2012 in November, Lucy Uren of Rowen & Wren shared her tips for social success. Uren, a former John Lewis designer, launched the niche homewares business in April 2011 following prelaunch activity on Twitter and Tumblr. 
Rowen & Wren's website

At ECMOD, she explained how Rowen & Wren had a social strategy right from the start and how the brand continues to engage with customers over social platforms. In true social-media style, she shared a few of her top tips:

• Blog: Rowen & Wren typically posts blogs three times a week, and topics range from spotlighting new products, highlighting press features, and posting photos that customers have sent in of Rowen & Wren pieces in their home. These blogs are then automatically posted on Facebook and Twitter for maximum exposure. Rowen & Wren is also a guest blogger on a wedding blog and Uren advised exploring opportunities that will allow you to blog for other people.

The Rowen & Wren Tumblr Blog

• Twitter: Uren recommended tweeting up to five times a day, with 10am and lunchtime among the more popular times to tweet. She said Twitter tended to be the social network used by journalists and bloggers, rather than consumers, so Rowen & Wren tailors tweets to appeal to the press and uses the medium to communicate with prominent stylists and bloggers.

• Facebook
This is the social network where most of Rowen & Wren’s UK customers are found. Because it’s such an accessible platform for customer interaction, Rowen & Wren uses Facebook to share images and blog posts, inviting its customers to become friends of the brand.

• PinterestAccording to Uren, Pinterest is “outstanding”. It directs more traffic to the Rowen & Wren website than either Twitter or Facebook. Much of the activity on Pinterest comes from the US, but Uren says a growing number of UK traffic is generated by the site. To use Pinterest effectively, Uren recommended following and attracting influential “pinners”. If one of them “re-pins” any of your products, the result could be a huge spike in traffic and potentially sales. Uren said she pins every evening—a mix of Rowen & Wren’s products and interesting images from around the web.--MT

Rowen & Wren on Pinterest