Editor’s Take: A Take on Acquisitions of All Kinds
“Bring it on!” I thought. Last year, when I presided over our Catalog Success 200 for a first go-round, I was warned that this chart had something of a controversial history during its prior four years. I prepared myself for a torrent of e-mails and phone calls after we published that issue, but to my surprise, we got next to none; only several compliments.
Years ago, an editorial director at a company I once worked for said something I’ll never forget: “I love getting hate mail, and hate getting complimentary mail.” I’d have welcomed “hate” mail about our chart, but that’s never our intent here. This chart doesn’t set out to tell you who are the biggest and therefore the “best” multichannel marketers. It shows those that have grown the key element of their companies — the 12-month housefile — the fastest over the past year. There are catalogers of all sizes on this chart. But if you’re in the market for acquisitions, chances are you’re looking for smaller, faster-growing companies than larger, shrinking ones.
So take a good look at our chart. These are the real movers and shakers of the business, large, medium and small, and you’ll find many that don’t ordinarily show up on your radar screen. And please, if you have any thoughts on the Catalog Success 200, positive or negative, let us know about it. It’s our goal to improve the quality of the chart every year.
On infoUSA’s Latest Absorption
Getting back to acquisitions, these days just about anybody in the catalog/multichannel business has an opinion on infoUSA’s January acquisition of Direct Media. I asked around and posted a number of opinions in our Feb. 1 Corner View e-newsletter. Upwards of a dozen chimed in; I encourage you to read it if you haven't already. Just go to the CatalogSuccess.com Web site and click on "free e-newsletters" toward the top of our homepage. You'll be able to access it from there.
My personal take is this: There’s no point in pining for the bygone “glory days” of the list business. All those nice, entrepreneurial companies whose brokers would call you up just to schmooze and give you the latest gossip on what used to be a cozy little industry — they’re not coming back.
Sure, it’s very sad. But it’s all part of the vicious cycle of business life in this country. I hate to sound callous, but even though the jury will be out for a while on whether infoUSA is doing this industry any good or not, this kind of megaconsolidation is going on all over. If infoUSA didn’t gobble up all these list firms, somebody else eventually would.
Another reality check is in store here: The catalog list business isn’t what it used to be. B-to-C catalogers have become very reliant on the co-op databases, and a growing number of B-to-B marketers are following suit. That means catalogers are changing the list business just as much as infoUSA. I’m not blaming anybody here, that’s just the way the business has evolved. Consolidation is never-ending, and there’ll certainly be more to follow.
Del Franco, Siviter Join Catalog Success
On a final note, I’m thrilled to welcome veteran catalog/multichannel editor/reporter Mark Del Franco as our new Valuations & Acquisitions columnist. As many readers will recall, Mark and I worked closely together for nearly seven years at the former Catalog Age magazine.
Over time, Mark became our go-to guy on catalog matters related to the Street and the whole M&A area. Check out his first column in this issue. Mark will write other Valuations & Acquisitions columns periodically throughout 2008 and beyond.
I’m also excited to welcome our new Understanding Postal columnist, Kathy J. Siviter. I’ve known Kathy since the ’90s when she did yeoman’s work as vice president of the Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom). Having gotten her training first at the USPS, Kathy later branched off and established her own consulting firm in 2000.
Last year, Kathy served as the industry co-chair for the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee workgroup tasked with forming recommendations for modern service standards and performance measurement under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Like Mark, she’ll contribute periodic columns to our magazine. In this issue, she explains key barcode automation requirements that catalogers must be ready to tackle in time for major rule changes next year.