UPDATE: Election Uncertainty Might Affect Holiday Shopping Season

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Voters aren't the only ones consumed with the presidential election fiasco that has gripped the nation.

Some catalogers are concerned that the delay in naming a president is putting a damper on the holiday shopping season, which could result in a drop-off in catalog sales.

During past presidential election years, catalogers have traditionally experienced a decrease in order volume leading up to Election Day, followed by a rapid recovery following the election, said Maxwell Sroge, president of Maxwell Sroge Co., Evanston, IL, a catalog consulting firm. But with this year's uncertainty, Sroge said consumers are preoccupied with the outcome and have done little shopping online or by catalog.

"People seem to crawl into a shell and suspend many of their normal activities until they know who the leader of the country will be," Sroge said. "The question now is as to whether consumer marketers will be able to make up the time lost."

He said a major impact on the holiday shopping season can be expected if the delay in naming a president continues into December.

Bill Dean, president of W.A. Dean & Associates, San Francisco, a catalog consulting company, said some catalogers are experiencing volume declines between 7 percent and 20 percent because of the distraction.

"If it gets resolved within a reasonable period of time -- by at least Thanksgiving -- we can see a gangbuster in December," Dean said, who added that consumers will place orders later than they usually would, which could lead to fulfillment and delivery problems for the holiday season.

Lillian Vernon, Rye, NY, has not experienced any major slowdowns in order volume, said David Hochberg, vice president of public affairs at Lillian Vernon. But like many in the industry, the cataloger is concerned that the continued delay will eventually affect business.

"What we will be doing soon is mailing special oversized postcards with a promotion special to spur sales," said Hochberg, who added that the company has not finalized the details of the promotion.

Robert Stern, president of Short Sizes Inc.com, Cleveland, said his company has not experienced any problems and does not plan to offer any special promotions to spur sales.

"Usually, when there is a presidential election, there is a slowdown," Stern said. "It happens all the time during a major election and no one should really be surprised. But what's happening now is unique and I think that's why some may be concerned."

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