In the late 1990s, REI saw Internet activity growing substantially and went on record saying it no longer needed to have a catalog. It stopped mailing a catalog, but six months later the company was back in the mail.
I can mention at least one company that is increasing circulation because it is driving Internet and retail sales: Brookstone.
Lands’ End conducted a test around 1999, mailing a much smaller book to Internet-only buyers, and the results weren’t there. The company found it still needed to send a full-size book.
All of our clients would like to find a way to reduce mailings to Internet buyers, but haven’t found a way to make it work.
My contact at J.C. Penney thinks the guy who spoke at ACCM might have misspoken.
Every one of the clients that we work with has adjusted circulation down for one season and put the extra dollars into, for example, redoing its Web site. The very next mailing, the client would return to catalog circulation.
Coldwater Creek is possibly the only cataloger that has successfully reduced its circulation. They’ve gone on record about it. It has coincided with an increase in the company building retail stores. I’m not sure that the decrease in circulation had as much to do with an increase in Web sales as it did with an increase in store activity.
Bill LaPierre is vice president of catalog brokerage at Millard Inc., Peterborough, NH.