Catalog industry upbeat despite current economy

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Despite an upheaval in the financial sector that sent tremors throughout the economy last week, the mood at the New England Mail Order Association's fall conference in Burlington, Vermont, was relatively upbeat and even looking ahead, with much of the focus on how to implement sustainability programs.

A year ago, catalogers were still reeling from new postage rates that jumped as much as 40%. There was much doom and gloom talk at NEMOA's fall 2007 conference as a result, some of which was born out over the past 12 months with catalogers Lillian Vernon, Red Envelope and Sharper Image all existing in significantly reduced sizes today.

In Burlington, the word was that the catalogers who survived the past year are weathering the current economic situation okay, especially those with a niche focus that aren't afraid to get out there and market themselves. “Taking bold steps in design and circulation can pay off handsomely,” said Carol Worthington-Levy creative director and partner at Lenser.

There's an even bigger problem than the economy “brewing if we don't pay attention to what we do as individuals and corporations and that's the environment,” said John Rogers, VP of multichannel marketing at Orvis, during a session at NEMOA.

Orvis initiated a sustainability program in May 2007 and has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2020. Orvis recently started promoting this position to consumers with its July catalog, on its Web site and in communications with customers.

These moves should pay off with customers, since those who give the company conservation dollars spend 39% more with the brand than those who don't donate to its conservation efforts, Rogers said.

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