Catalogers, Mailers Set Sights on Holidays

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As summer begins to dwindle, many catalogers are making their lists -- and checking them twice -- in preparation for this fall's holiday season.

The Wine Enthusiast, Pleasantville, NY, is planning significant increases in circulation and page counts, purchasing products and bulking up on seasonal staff.

"We mail three or four times as much as we mail during other times of the year," said chairman and founder Adam Strum, adding that the company does as much as 40 percent of its business in the fourth quarter.

The merchant's fall book is at the printer, and the cataloger expects it to hit homes in early September, with 25 percent more pages. The holiday catalog will follow, going out in November and December, with 35 percent more pages. The Wine Enthusiast mails 20 million catalogs each year.

Many of the cataloger's products have already been purchased, Strum said.

"Midsize catalogs and large-size catalogs often buy internationally, so they need to really do their purchasing now," he said.

The cataloger expects to begin staffing up for the holidays next month, with plans to double the number of employees in its fulfillment and call centers. Although The Wine Enthusiast manages a small publicity campaign inhouse for the holiday season, Strum said he doesn't participate in any large-scale publicity programs, "although we probably should."

There are at least two holiday publicity campaigns for catalogers. Public relations firm LaMotta Strategic Communications Inc., New York, is launching a program to promote remote gift-shopping.

"It is the process [of shopping via catalog or online] that you're selling in a joint publicity effort -- the convenience, reliability, security, quality -- all of that," said president/CEO Connie LaMotta.

LaMotta said she expects the firm will pitch television, radio and print media -- depending on the needs of the participants -- as part of the six-month program.

The Direct Marketing Association has offered a similar outreach program for catalogers -- and now online retailers -- for more than 10 years to address negative perceptions in the marketplace.

"When you look at the coverage of consumer media of catalogs at this point in time, it's very positive," said program director Amy Blankenship.

As part of its campaign, the DMA mails boxes of participating catalogs along with press kits to feature editors at newspapers nationwide.

Lillian Vernon Corp., Rye, NY, has participated in the program for several years, and the box mailings have been a useful part of it, said David Hochberg, vice president of public affairs. Articles written in consumer publications tout "the advantages of catalog shopping and the different choices out there. We're just viewed as one of the choices, but that's certainly fine," he said.

Lillian Vernon uses a clipping service to judge the success of the box mailing.

"Most major newspapers in the country have a holiday-shopping-by-catalog story," Hochberg said. "They usually have a visual of a pile of catalogs and usually there's a picture of ours [from the box mailing]."

Between 80 and 100 catalogers sign up for the fall/holiday portion of the Shop-at-Home program each year. Past participants include Lands' End, L.L. Bean, Magellan's and J. Jill.

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