25th Anniversary Issue: Timeline: 1984-88


JANUARY-APRIL: Spiegel reports record sales for 1983 of $515 million, up 30 percent, and plans a 50 percent increase in the ad budget for its spring 1984 catalog. … Catalog experts predict that books in 1984 will be more specialized, use higher-quality paper and be ink-jet addressed. … Field testing begins on a “page processor” for the IBM personal computer that can produce catalog layouts. … Members of the Mailing List Users and Suppliers Association reject a plan to force disclosure of companies that sold compiled names to the IRS through Dunhill of Washington in late 1983. … Groups such as the DMA Catalog Council want to establish an audit bureau to fight mailing list theft. … The Reagan-Bush campaign will spend $600,000 to develop a computerized list of potential voters based partly on lists the campaign previously bought from DM operations. … Paul Newman starts selling cookbooks by direct response.

MAY-AUGUST: Conservatives lead the Democratic Party in use of direct mail. … The DMA proposes revamping its dues structure, replacing two categories with nine industry segments. … Telemarketing pioneer Murray Roman dies May 8. … The USPS discontinues its E-COM electronic mail based on rising prices, lack of market interest and pressure from the private sector. … Williams-Sonoma says it won’t allow a takeover after American Can bought 131,200 shares. … The Mailing List Users and Suppliers Association forms a credit information sharing bureau to identify delinquent business-to-business accounts. … Postmaster general William F. Bolger disputes reports of reasons for E-COM’s end, saying the USPS chose to refocus on core hard-copy service. … The Selective Service System uses commercially acquired lists to identify and contact men who failed to register for the draft. … Sam Popeil, inventor of the Veg-O-Matic, dies.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Avon tests mail order for the first time. … The DMA’s BTB Council considers creating a splinter group based on the Mailing List Users and Suppliers Association, which split from the DMA List Council in 1983. … A retrospective on outgoing DMA president Robert DeLay notes that the “Direct Mail Association” became the “Direct Mail and Marketing Association” in 1973, then the Direct Marketing Association in 1981. … L.L. Bean sues High Society for $16 million over a sex catalog parody featuring nude male and female models. … Republican Party phone bank workers are accused of using assumed Jewish names when calling Jewish voters. … Syndicated political cartoonist Herblock draws a cartoon claiming erroneously that First-Class mail supports Third-Class ad mail. … Telemarketing firm National Switchboard employs 20 female inmates at its headquarters with the cooperation of Arizona’s Department of Corrections.


JANUARY-APRIL: South Dakota Gov. William J. Janklow seeks to impose a state sales tax on out-of-state direct marketers that sell goods and services to residents in the state. … The DMA proposes and implements a Telephone Preference Service to halt telemarketing calls. … Jonah Gitlitz becomes DMA president. … Montgomery Ward & Co. says it will convert 300 catalog stores into a computer-based telephone ordering system and will close at least 40 of its stores. … Several U.S. and European firms experiment with an alternative form of written communication: international telex. … The Office of Management and Budget’s report on the 1986 federal budget calls direct mail “inefficient” because average response rates ranged from 1 to 4 percent. It recommends using telemarketing. … Creative Direct Response Inc. and seven other companies organize a direct mail lobbying campaign to block plans to eliminate federal subsidies used for Third-Class nonprofit postage.

MAY-AUGUST: USA for Africa, the celebrity-sponsored group for Ethiopian famine relief, raises $1.1 million via direct response merchandise like T-shirts and buttons. … The Home Shopping Network plans to begin nationwide broadcasting to 5 million homes July 1. … Mail-order retail firm Country Curtains buys furniture cataloger The Country Loft. … A Stone & Adler study of 1,750 households reports that direct marketing has a negative image among some customers mainly because of poor experiences buying through the mail. … Magazines The Family Handyman and McCall’s and list firm Woodruff-Stevens investigate list-abuse charges that some lists were rented under false pretenses for unauthorized subscription campaigns. … Illinois passes a 5-cent “message tax” on all long-distance calls by telemarketers.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Video and Video Review magazines join forces to combat the use of their mailing lists for X-rated materials. … Owners of 10 Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog stores file an $8.25 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against Montgomery Ward and its parent, Mobil Corp. … The USPS and mailers are expected to discuss plans to start a National Change of Address system next year. … The California legislature passes a bill requiring telemarketers to register with the state and submit call scripts to the state attorney general. … Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma and South Carolina join 22 other states in enacting laws that place library registration and circulation list information off limits to direct marketers and anyone else. … Georgia state Rep. Cathey W. Steinberg is expected to introduce a bill restricting the use of computer-recorded messages in telemarketing. … Direct marketers dispute claims that mail-order sales of martial-arts weapons contribute to eye injuries and blindness in children.


JANUARY-APRIL: Federal Express and United Parcel Service object to a USPS plan to change regulations on remailing, the practice of third parties sending packages to foreign post offices for delivery. … The USPS’ Board of Governors raises rates on nonprofit deliveries for the second time in a month. Nonprofits worry that the USPS will start to charge more than the delivery costs. … DMA and USPS tests indicate that the USPS fails to deliver up to 20 percent of direct mail. … South Dakota’s legislature drops a proposal to require mail-order firms to sell their lists to the state for use in sales tax collection. … Pacific Bell delays its entry into the list business after privacy groups object. Pacific Bell sent letters to its 7.2 million customers a month earlier to inform them that it will begin renting out its white pages listings.

MAY-AUGUST: L.L. Bean and Bloomingdale’s By Mail prepare for a court date over an objection to a Pennsylvania law requiring them to collect sales tax. … Oklahoma passes legislation requiring out-of-state companies to collect sales tax on products sold to Oklahomans via direct mail and catalogs. The DMA calls the law unconstitutional. … Direct Marketing Days in New York founder Henry Hoke resigns from the group’s board after objecting to the “shroud of secrecy” around the $20,000 in annual fees paid to board members. … Reader’s Digest, Time and IBM consider bidding on the USPS’ 20 National Change of Address service licenses. The DMA says the firms could use the licenses to enter the list-processing industry. … Hanover House Industries says it will begin selling catalog products on a new cable TV network by Christmas. … Ray Schultz becomes editor of DM News.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Hands Across America will conduct monthly direct mail campaigns to follow up on its 90-day telemarketing effort that helped organize an event that generated $25 million in contributions and built a base with 75,000 donor names. … U.S. Sprint Communications says it will launch a network of 800 numbers to compete with AT&T and MCI Communications. … Public Data Access Inc., which sells Federal Election Commission lists of contributors of $500 or more, continues to operate normally despite an FEC advisory opinion declaring that such sales are illegal. … “The Sweepstakes Channel,” a four-hour weekly television show designed to advertise magazine subscriptions, will air next year. … NWAyer Inc., parent company for AyerDirect, is expected to lose $85 million in direct response billings as a result of the U.S. Army’s firing of the agency because of alleged mischarging and bid-rigging on the service’s ad campaigns.


JANUARY-APRIL: Direct mail budgets grew 11 percent in 1986, a year in which the USPS filed a record number of complaints about mail-order advertising. … Electronic catalogs will be a viable selling tool in a few years, a poll of marketers finds. … The USPS considers halting advertising ride-alongs mailed with magazines at Second-Class rates. … SRDS backs away from a proposal requiring list managers and owners to provide it with detailed list-use information for entry into its new online mailing list identification system. … Preparations begin for the DMA to form a special-interest group for card pack publishers and advertisers. … The USPS records income of $305 million for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 1986. DM News debuts Catalog Business, a supplement to DM News. … The USPS says it wants to set up a seal of approval for mailing lists.

MAY-AUGUST: The growth rate of business catalogs is expected to slow, according to a DMA survey. … The Florida legislature passes a bill prohibiting unsolicited telephone sales calls to people who say they do not want to receive them. The first of its kind to pass anywhere, the bill requires that these consumers be identified with printed notations in telephone directories. … Syndicated columnist Calvin Trillin sparks controversy with a suggestion to his readers that they sabotage direct response offers by sending suggested wry comments to direct marketing fulfillment employees. … Lillian Vernon Corp. files with the Securities and Exchange Commission to offer 2 million shares of common stock. … Telemarketers mount a defense against a bill that would force them to play an audible tone during calls to indicate when they were monitoring call center agents.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Postmaster general Preston R. Tisch, in a letter to MRH Associates president Michael R. Hough, says it’s not the postal service’s problem if company mailrooms throw bulk mail away after it is delivered. … U.S. News & World Report plans to test a new automated marketing technology that would broadcast dial-tone signals over television and radio. Consumers could hold their telephone receiver near their television or radio and order automatically without dialing an 800 number. … Rep. Howard Nielson, R-UT, introduces a bill to ban telemarketing calls between 9 p.m. and 10 a.m. … Following the Black Monday stock market crash Oct. 19, in which the Dow Jones fell 22.6 percent, mailers worry about an impending decline in response rates. … Six executives from Danbury Printing & Litho Inc. die in a plane crash near Fort Atkinson, WI. … Federal lawmakers hear complaints from victims of telemarketing scams at a hearing while a House Commerce subcommittee considers national telemarketing regulations through the FTC.


JANUARY-APRIL: The National Taxpayers Union uses a mail campaign urging members to write Congress to oppose a state sales tax bill requiring mail-order firms with annual volume over $12.5 million to collect sales tax. … Postal officials said Third-Class mail could be crippled if Congress forces the USPS to find $1.7 billion in new revenue. … Anthony M. Frank, chairman/CEO of First Nationwide Bank, becomes postmaster general. … An audit by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service reveals that post offices commonly discard or delay delivery of bulk mail. … Subscription fulfillment firm Fulfillment Associates files for Chapter 11 but plans to reorganize. … Venture Communications International gets a letter from a lawyer for President Reagan after placing an ad in the Jan. 15 edition of DM News depicting Reagan speaking with Venture president Richard Baumer. The letter claims that using the president’s name and likeness in advertising is prohibited. Baumer says his attorney said it’s legal and a follow-up ad is planned. … DM News spins off Catalog Business as a stand-alone publication.

MAY-AUGUST: Postal labor unions outspend business mailers and trade associations in campaign contributions to members of Congress, according to the Federal Election Commission. … General Mills exits the catalog business by selling Talbots Inc. to Jusco Co. for $325 million and Eddie Bauer to Spiegel for $260 million. … The U.S. Supreme Court paves the way for lawyers to solicit business by using direct mail targeted to people in crisis or with special needs. … AT&T runs a direct mail campaign to promote international 800 phone numbers to U.S. businesses on toll-free’s 20th anniversary.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: The USPS suspends a Pensacola, FL, mail carrier without pay after tons of mail are found in and near his home. … Neiman Marcus Group signs a letter to acquire Horchow Mail Order. … Presidential mailings heat up as George Bush and Michael Dukakis target Reagan Democrats. … The Mailing Lists Users and Suppliers Association joins the DMA. … The DMA debuts the Direct Mail Board of Review Inc. with its own “Seal of Honor” to prove that the direct marketer subscribes to the DMBR code of business ethics. … Oregon and Washington contemplate laws barring direct response fax advertising as the DMA and the American Facsimile Association attempt industry self-regulation. … Marriott and Amtech form a joint venture to place video kiosks in airports. … Campeau Corp. sells the Ann Taylor catalog and retail operation for $430 million to a group financed by Merrill Lynch.

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