Catalog Attendees Upbeat About Rest of 2004

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CHICAGO -- DMers attending this week's Annual Catalog Conference expressed a general sense of optimism regarding their profession while also discussing various industry concerns yesterday.

"One of the bigger issues is finding new lists and new prospect opportunities," said Tim Ford, president of J.C. Whitney & Co., Chicago, a marketer of automotive parts and accessories. "It's a challenge because some of the privacy legislation and concerns have clamped down on the availability of new lists and people's willingness to be on lists."

Despite that, Ford said his business is growing.

"The struggle [for the industry] is convincing that other 40 percent of the population who don't shop remotely to buy remotely," he said. "I'm optimistic because the economy is improving rapidly [and] because the Internet is conveying more information to consumers about the products that are available, and you can find products remotely that you can't find at retail."

Both catalog and Internet channels present an excellent method of introducing products, he said.

"We don't need 1,000 stores," he said. "We can hit 4 million households in a week."

Bill N. Stroner, president/CEO of Demco Inc., Madison, WI, a business-to-business cataloger of supplies and furniture to libraries, said his pessimistic view of a year ago has been replaced with optimism. Among the reasons: the state of the economy combined with consumers' receptivity in using the Web and catalogs to buy products.

"As the overall economy has picked up, funding to schools and libraries have picked up," he said.

Mixed feelings were expressed by Kevin McGrath, vice president of The Offset House, Essex, VT, a printing and mailing operation. Along with an upturn he has experienced in the past six months, he said his business is almost back to where it was five years ago. His prices during that time have fallen 5 percent to 10 percent because of a combination of efficiencies realized through contracts with paper companies and other vendors.

"A lot of our business was conference-related, and with the huge hit from 9/11 nobody wanted to travel," he said.

James Treis, executive vice president of sales and marketing at printer Arandell Corp., Menomonee Falls, WI, is looking forward to a 15 percent to 20 percent rise in business this year over 2003.

"From a supplier standpoint, pricing has hit the floor and pricing is going up," he said. "Paper increases have to stick or there won't be any paper mills around. It's a fact of life."


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