Libey: DM Shifting From National to Local

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NEW YORK -- Donald R. Libey's speech yesterday at the Direct Marketing Idea Exchange luncheon included no shortage of blunt statements.

"The days of direct marketing being a national focus are over," said the co-founder of Libey-Concordia, advisers and investment bankers to the catalog industry. "The days of direct marketing being a regional and local focus are beginning, and I hope that that will cause massive changes in circulation, massive changes in lists. I hope we will go from the absolute reliance on national compiled lists to absolute reliance on immediate, fresh, local lists of true responders of true multichannel direct marketers, and I hope that results in you making even larger amounts of money and greater business valuation."

Libey advised attendees to "move ahead, do not retreat" in the opening moments of his address, "The Rebirth of Direct Marketing." He discussed a recent forum that included 25 CEOs from major business-to-business companies.

"Every person ... who spoke said, 'Everyone who continued to mail, continued to prospect, continued to move ahead, continued to service their budgets after Sept. 11, after anthrax and in this past year -- every one of those people reported high single- or low double-digit business gains ... Everyone who pulled back had a down year.' You cannot stop. You cannot pull back," he said. "It is a death spiral to stop prospecting."

Those who maintained or increased prospecting over the past two years are starting to harvest that investment, he said. Those who decreased prospecting in the past two years will have a larger prospecting investment to be made in 2003.

Direct marketing will gain market share through what he described as a "very interesting rebirth.

"There has never been a new sale created," he said. "There has only been sales taken from retail by the cataloger. We do not create sales. We shift sales. That has been our history."

This led to mentions of retail overcapacity, his belief that taxes will rise at the local level, disposable income will decrease and sales will shift from retail to direct if direct marketers take advantage of the current situation.

"Macy's doesn't own their store. Bloomingdale's doesn't own their store. They rent. All they have ... [is] unsustainable, high operating costs," he said. "A retail downturn for any extended period of time and what do you think happens to all of those stores? They become shuttered. They become boarded. Wouldn't you love to see a few Wal-Marts shut?"

He told attendees that the catalog direct marketing world is "fully invested, in place, ready to take share."


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