ACCM reflects catalogs’ woes

Annual Conference for Catalog and Mul­tichannel Merchants in Orlando offered more evidence that the multichannel retail industry is in the midst of a shake up.

There were signs of life at the show, however, with several merchants reporting strong results. And, there were discus­sions of the best practices that will help merchants survive these times.

“We’re not seeing the traffic we’d like to,” said Alex Schumacher, director of market­ing at Experian Marketing Services.

One reason repeatedly cited for the spa­cious aisles was the troubled economy and rising costs. There was also much talk of the growing list of catalog shutdowns, bankruptcies and financial woes.

“Ie-mailed several catalog companies to set up appointments at the show and they said they’re watching expenses this year” and so declined to attend, said Sha­ron Rogers, account manager at Midco Call Center.

“There’s no question that the country is facing economic challenges and most businesses are feeling the pinch,” said Julie Hogan, SVP of conferences and events at the DMA. “The feedback from the floor and post-conference is that attendees were extremely happy with the programming.”

She said standing room-only sessions might have accounted for lulls on the exhibit floor.

The catalogers that were present had good stories to tell. Food catalogers are reportedly enjoying a strong year as con­sumers decide to cut back on eating out. “We’re running counter-cyclical” and sales are strong, said Philip Burger, VP at Burg­ers’ Ozark Country Cured Hams.

Hobby catalogs are somewhat recession-proof as well, because people don’t give up their hobbies as quickly as they do other expenses, said Michael Schuster, GM at Nancy’s Notions.

With rising postage and paper costs, strategies for mailing smarter was a fre­quent topic. Instead of mailing rental lists repeatedly, Klockit, another catalog for hobbyists, has started using modeling and segmentation to help it mail smarter, said its director of e-commerce, Randy Horgan, during a session at the show.

As a result, the company discovered that 20% of its Internet customers were first-time buyers who never made another purchase. “We tested dropping them out of catalog mailings and saw no drop off in sales,” Horgan said.

“Marketers aren’t pulling back, but they are looking at smarter ways to do things,” said Betsy Emery, CEOof interactive agency Tellus, which is currently working with a large consumer products companyto align its Web presence and supporting tools to make it easier to measure key met­rics and refine its Internet marketing.

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