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

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