Wientzen: Catalog Industry Grows Despite Challenges

BOSTON — Though catalogers face many political challenges and a downturn in the economy, the catalog industry continues to grow, H. Robert Wientzen, the Direct Marketing Association's president/CEO, said yesterday.

“Although some individual companies are feeling the pinch of the economic slowdown — in particular advertising agencies and others who provide services and supplies — the overall catalog industry continues to grow at a healthy pace,” Wientzen said in his keynote address at the DMA's 18th Annual Catalog Conference and Exhibition at the Hynes Convention Center.

As for political challenges, he said, catalogers must contend with three major hurdles: privacy, remote-sales taxation and the postal crisis.

To date, 546 privacy-related bills have been introduced in 49 states, Wientzen said. He urged catalogers to keep on top of the issue.

Though the DMA would prefer no remote-sales taxation, Wientzen stressed that a uniform tax for each state would be much more manageable for the direct marketing industry than dealing with thousands of local regulations.

Concerning postal rates and services, he said, “We're facing nothing short of a crisis.” Again, he urged catalogers to follow postal developments and to be vocal and active.

Following Wientzen was a keynote speech titled “The Art of Storytelling” by Bran Ferren, co-chairman and chief creative officer at Applied Minds, Glendale, CA.

Ferren advised catalogers that “the successful enterprise of the future has to have big ideas.”

He added that catalogers' core competency is using catalogs to tell stories that inspire customers to buy. The Internet, he said, has to be part of that process.

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