Holiday sales are expected to grow by just 5 percent this year, down from the 6.7 percent growth recorded in 2004, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
And a recent survey of about 8,000 consumers conducted by BIGResearch found that 34.7 percent of respondents plan to spend less on gifts this holiday than they did in 2004. The study also found that 60.2 percent of respondents said they’re driving less. Indeed, high energy costs are one of the main factors behind the expected slowdown in holiday spending this year, according to NRF officials. In this age of high petroleum prices, consumers may be more reluctant to fill up their gas tanks to go shopping.
But in my mind that’s even more reason for you to increase prospecting via print and online channels. Those consumers who still have healthy holiday gift-giving budgets — but who don’t want to fill up their SUV gas tanks to head to the mall — may buy more from direct marketers. I can hear consumers everywhere saying: “Let someone else do the driving.” In short, keep the sales pressure on.
Cost-cutting Tips for 2006
But in case Holiday ‘05 turns out to be less than stellar for you — and in anticipation of the impending postal increase — here are cost-cutting tips from Jim Gilbert, president of consultancy Gilbert Direct Marketing:
1. Look into destination entry discounts. Share with other merchants trucking charges for shipping your catalogs to U.S. Postal Service centers, says Gilbert.
2. Look into co-mailing opportunities with other catalogers.
3. Trim your catalog size.
4. Test responses to a catalog version printed on a slightly lighter paper weight, Gilbert advises.
5. Batch print several catalog edition signatures, swapping out just the cover signatures.
6. Do vendor reviews, but be sure to compare apples-to-apples, and consider customer service and quality in your vendor selection.
Gilbert offered these tips — fleshed out to give more actionable advice — in his article “Reduce Mailing Costs,” published in the Oct. 11 edition of Idea Factory, the Catalog Success e-newsletter. Each week, we publish a series of articles offering practical strategies for catalogers and e-merchants. If you don’t already subscribe to this free e-newsletter, you can sign up at: www.catalogsuccess.com/ideafactory.
We’ve also posted Gilbert’s tips on the Catalog Marketing and Merchandising page in the “Communities” section of this site. Visit this page often for steps you can take to help manage your business more efficiently and grow sales.