Three weeks after Target Corp. said that it would shut down six catalog titles, Direct Media Inc., which manages the catalog files, revealed the company's immediate plans for the catalogs and the lists.
The lists in question include three Marshall Field's Direct titles as well as I Love a Deal, Signals and Wireless.
“The lists are still on the market and available for rental,” said Sheryl Benjamin, vice president of list management at Direct Media, Greenwich, CT. “We just completed an update, and we will probably do another one around May.”
Still, the fates of the catalogs vary. According to Benjamin's contact at Target, the three Marshall Field's titles will mail through the spring season with the last drop in March. They will mail to prospects as well as house file names. Target Corp., Minneapolis, does not grant interviews to trade media.
After the last mailing, the retailer seemingly will use the Internet as its only direct response channel, a move that is not unprecedented in the industry.
“It's very similar to what Saks Folio did,” said Chris Montana, senior vice president/director of list management at Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ.
Saks chose to end its Saks Folio catalog in 2001 and has not looked back.
“The numbers tell you whether or not a catalog is a profitable venture that fits into an organization's contact strategy,” Montana said. “Only they know whether it's right or wrong.”
Still, Saks does mail a retail piece to drive retail and online traffic, he said. Saks' catalog list remains on the market through Mokrynski.
“It does remarkably well for a file that has not added new names in about 24 months,” Montana said.
The Marshall Field's Direct Database contains buyers to its three catalogs: Marshall Field's Direct Apparel, Marshall Field's Direct Gift and Marshall Field's Direct Home. The file has more than 1 million last-12-month buyers through Dec. 31, with a base price of $110/M.
Benjamin said she doubted that Marshall Field's Web buyers at postal address would be available after the catalogs stop mailing. Target does not currently make its Target.com buyers available. It is also unclear whether Target will use any type of mail to drive traffic to Marshall Field's.
One retail industry analyst said he was certain that discontinuing the Marshall Field's catalogs was a good move for Target.
“The catalog has many advantages but perhaps more disadvantages,” said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Consulting Group, Upper Montclair, NJ. “I'm sure they weighed all the pros and cons and probably came up with a number of reasons to shut it down.”
Barnard cited the cost of printing and mailing as well as a catalog's unchangeable nature after printing as drawbacks.
“In the day and age of the Internet, the catalog may start to show signs of being superfluous,” he said. “We are going to see more stores gradually beginning to review the validity of continuing to publish a catalog.”
Even so, he said, retailers will need direct mail of some sort to drive store and Web traffic.
As for I Love a Deal, that title no longer exists as a catalog and has been incorporated into Target.com's Web site. The I Love a Deal Buyers file has more than 27,800 last-12-month buyers through Dec. 31 and a base price of $105/M.
Though Target is exploring the sale of Signals, the title will mail into the summer. Signals' last mailing will be in June and also will be a house file and prospect mailing.
“We've been retained by Target Corp. to explore alternatives for the Signals and Wireless catalogs and other properties,” said Don Libey, president of Libey-Concordia, Philadelphia, an advisory and investment banking firm serving the catalog industry.
Rivertown Trading Co. sold Signals and Wireless to Target, but Wireless has not been mailed recently. Signals has more than 280,000 last-12-month buyers through Dec. 31 and a base price of $105/M. Wireless has 342,900 names from its last 12 months of operation through July 2002.
If the properties are sold, the lists will transfer to the new owner, Benjamin said.
Retailwise, Target said last week that its fiscal year 2003 revenue rose 9.7 percent to $48.26 billion. However, the Marshall Field's division saw a drop from $2.7 billion in 2002 to less than $2.6 billion in 2003.