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Abacus: Online Sales May Overtake Catalog in 18 Months

Online sales could surpass catalog sales within 18 months, according to the 2005 Abacus Multi-Channel Retail Annual Trend Report, released yesterday.

Multichannel direct sales totaled $23.4 billion last year, up 10 percent from 2003. This was a major improvement from the 1.4 percent increase seen from 2002 to 2003. While the number of purchasing households remained at 55 million, growth was spurred by an 11 percent rise in purchasing frequency and an 8 percent increase in average annual spend per household.

Web-based sales accounted for 38 percent of total multichannel direct sales last year, up from 32 percent in 2003 and 28 percent in 2002. From this, Abacus projects online sales will overtake catalog sales within 18 months.

Apparel and accessories rebounded from two consecutive years of declines to lead product categories with nearly $6.88 billion in sales. Rounding out the top five were home décor and furnishings, $4.54 billion; men's products, $2.68 billion; gifts, $2.5 billion; and senior products, $2.21 billion. The fastest-growing category was gardening and back yard, rising 18 percent. Arts, crafts and collectibles saw the biggest drop, 21 percent.

Mail volume peaked in the weeks ending Nov. 6 and Nov. 27. In addition, holiday mailings performed 9 percent better than winter/spring mailings.

Supporting previous notions that major media events can hurt shopping behavior, Abacus said, mailings in the week ending Oct. 30, 2004, — directly before last year's elections — had the lowest response rate of any in the study. However, mailings the following week produced better-than-average responses for many marketers.

Abacus, Broomfield, CO, used data from its Abacus B2C Alliance and ChannelView to compile the report.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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