Touchstone's February catalog was its last

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Facing an uncertain economy and a dwindling universe of names for its acquisition efforts, cataloger Touchstone has made the decision to shut down. The last issue of the quarterly home décor book was mailed on February 25, and live orders will continue to be taken until the end of April.

Sarah Luce, a former commercial interior designer, founded Touchstone in 1989. Its customers are mostly women 55 years who are interested in traditional home furnishings.

“The postal increase in 2007 really impacted our ability to mail profitably,” said Luce, starting the cycle that ended with the decision to shut down the business. Because of the postal increase, Touchstone decreased its circulation, which meant it had fewer names to add to its house list with its next mailing, a cycle that continued over the next year and a half. With many of the company's competitors exiting the home décor category in recent years as well, there have been fewer circulation lists for Touchstone to rent.

“There used to be 20 line items of outside lists we could choose from, and now it's down to five or six,” said Luce.

Still, Touchstone started out 2009 with sales holding their own in January, which Luce attributes to the presidential inauguration. Once the economic situation started taking a turn for the worse, however, sales began to drop off.

“We have a very traditional customer,” said Luce. “If there's chaos in Washington or in the world, it affects our customers.”

In February, the company ran some numbers and made the decision to shut down. “This is not a bankruptcy; it's an orderly shut down of business,” said Luce.  

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