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