Spring 2001 Has Sprung for Catalog List Ordering

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While direct mailers are still holding their breath for the outcome of the 2000 holiday season, catalogers are placing list orders for the spring 2001 mailing season without much deviation from last year's spring mailing plans.

"For the most part, I don't see a whole lot of catalogers being aggressive for spring 2001," said Karen Mayhew, group sales director at Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT.

"What I'm seeing is about even with what I saw last spring."

Several catalog list managers and brokers think that mailers are looking to maintain the status quo based on decent results posted last spring.

"Spring 2000 was a relatively healthy season for catalogers," said Steve Tamke, senior vice president of list brokerage at Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ. "Catalogers are not being overly conservative or aggressive in their spring 2001 planning."

Both Mayhew and Tamke said that, so far, they have seen several continuation list orders that are somewhat larger than those of last spring.

"I'm noticing more rollouts on continuations," said Mayhew. "Mailers are tweaking the selects on tried-and- true lists and bulking circulation up that way."

But as with any mailing season, some catalogers will cut back slightly.

"I see it as business as usual," said Mike Hayden, senior vice president of the catalog list brokerage division at Millard Group Inc., Peterborough, NH. "Overall, business may be down a little bit, but not that much."

Hayden estimated that cutbacks will be between 3 percent to 5 percent.

The uncertainty regarding the holiday season and what's in store for the economy next year has not altered the process by which catalogers plan their mailings, according to list brokers.

"Catalogers don't just cut back arbitrarily on the basis of a postage increase or any softness," said Bill LaPierre, a vice president in the list brokerage division at Millard Group. "They do their normal circulation planning and take the lists that make it on the basis of what their normal criteria for cutoff is."

In many cases, the more marginal lists have not made the cut for spring.

As catalogers stick with proven files, testing is another area that suffers.

"In spring and summer, catalogers tend to stay more with their tried-and-true lists," said Tamke. "There tends to be fewer lists and some tightening up on the lists that they use."

LaPierre said that there has been a lack of new catalog start-ups over the last few years, resulting in fewer new files on the market for mailers to test.

"The venture capital that normally would have gone into catalog start-up funding was funneled off to the dot-coms," he said. "Now that the dot-com phase seems to have waned a little bit, more catalogs will appear and there will be more files to test."

So far, there have not been any indications that spring 2001 will be anything more than business as usual for catalogers.

"Catalogers tend to be a relatively stable group of people and they don't overreact to raging success or to softness out there," said Tamke. "They tend to circulate within a range and the issue becomes whether it will be the high side of the range or the low side."

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