Catalogs Shrink After USPS Hike

By Del Williams

With tCatalogs Shrink After USPS Hikehe USPS enacting a 5.9 percent increase across all mailing types, the largest rate hike for print mailings since 2007, catalog mailers are being forced to consider new strategies. Rather than dramatically reducing circulation and frequency, or jumping to less established online marketing channels, one option that’s attracting renewed interest is the “Mini Slim Catalog.”

Despite having fewer pages than full catalogs, mini catalogs allow companies to cut mailing and production costs without sacrificing circulation or frequency. The catalogs mail at the cost of a standard automated letter, and provide up to ten pages to promote products. They can cut mailing and production costs by a third, helping to offset the increase in mailing costs. They can also be as effective as larger catalogs in response rate, as well as driving customers to company websites. Though not considered a replacement for full sized catalogs, they can be used on a case-by-case or supplemental basis, to fill the void of a catalog that otherwise might not be sent.

“Mail remains the most productive of media channels for most marketers, and there are no adequate substitutes for it,” says Hamilton Davison, president and executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA). According to a 2012 survey conducted by FGI Research and commissioned by ACMA, consumers who receive and use catalogs consider them far more useful than many other types of unsolicited mail. Catalogs are also critical in driving traffic to websites, and about 60 percent of orders today come through websites, adds Davison. “Despite the known value of catalog mailings, the truth is that the increase will be a tough pill to swallow, and hard decisions will have to be made. I do not know of any CEO who you can tell, ‘postage is up 5.9 percent this year, so I need 5.9 percent more in my budget,’ so catalog mailers are going to have to find productive ways to offset the cost increases,” Davison remarks.

The concern is that catalog mailers will slash circulation, at the expense of new customer prospecting. Unfortunately, after the 2007 USPS rate increase, many catalog mailers dramatically reduced new customer prospecting, knowing it might affect long-term growth.  The result was a vicious cycle of having too few new names to mail to, followed by fewer orders and less customer retention over the long term.

National Ropers Supply (NRS), a Decatur, TX based catalog and store retailer of western lifestyle décor and supplies, needed an inexpensive way to drive customers and prospects to their website, according to Kerrie Thornton, a NRS business analyst. According to Thornton, the retailer had traditionally mailed out five to six full catalogs of over 250 pages annually, costing about $1.50 each at their volumes.  To cut costs, the company began substituting a few 84 page catalogs for the larger catalogs, but still found this costly.

As a solution, NRS chose to mail out two full catalogs a year, supplemented by mini catalogs printed by B&W Press, a Georgetown, MA-based printer specializing in direct marketing. “Sales with the mini catalogs were as good or better than with the 84 page catalogs,” Thornton shares. “For about the cost of producing and mailing a postcard, we have found this to be a much more effective direct marketing approach.”

B&W Press, Inc.
401 E. Main St.
Georgetown, MA  01833
Toll free: 877-246-3467
Fax: 978-352-5955