Predicting Sales as the Pandemic Fades
The pandemic is fading. How can catalogers predict sales for the second half of the year? Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Catalogers are finding that their sales are decreasing or remaining steady depending on their merchandise category.
- Some categories were still white-hot this spring, with gardening being a prime example of a hobby that was strong the past several months.
- Some categories actually picked up speed. For example, apparel catalogs have had robust sales as people freshen up their wardrobes for both vacations and return to work.
- Some categories are slowing down. Woodworking is slower, while tool buying overall remains strong as new home construction remains white-hot in many regions.
How Can Catalogers Measure Where Their Sales Are Trending?
Vital metrics include:
- Comparing monthly, weekly and daily sales to last year (2020) and the previous year (2019). How are sales tracking compared to the same time last year? How are sales tracking compared to 2019?
- How are the new-to-file buyers who first purchased in 2020 responding? Are they turning into loyal customers or are they “one and done,” and responding less than historical first-time buyers in pre-pandemic years?
The big question for most catalogers is what will the holiday 2021 season look like? Last Q4 holiday season many catalogers surged, with most brick-and-mortar retail stores effectively closed. Some of the frothy buying behavior last year will certainly slow down. So, how do you predict sales and profitable catalog circulations for the upcoming season? Look carefully at your current sales trends because we're just now seeing how consumers are buying in the post-pandemic world.
Why do direct marketers and catalogers need to know now what sales will look like for the holiday season? The costs of producing and mailing catalogs are going up significantly; paper prices are crazy and paper mills have catalog printers on allocation as paper has become a very scarce commodity. Postage is going up almost 10 percent at the end of August! And printers are literally selling out their press time as catalogers increase their book circulations. Supply chain issues are a big issue for things ranging from building materials to furniture to all varieties of imports from China. All of these factors mean that deciding on catalog circulations is being done now for holiday 2021.
The best data is recent sales data showing recent sales compared to last year’s sales for the same days, weeks and months. How your sales are trending now is your best indication of how sales will trend for holiday 2021 compared to holiday 2020.
Catalogers simply can’t wait much longer to commit to marketing budgets for the second half of the year as paper supplies are the tightest in anyone’s memory and printers are selling out press time. The key takeaway is that your best data is your most recent sales data. Keep close track of how sales are trending as the key metric for how the back half of this year will unfold.
Jim Coogan is the founder and president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning.
Related story: Managing Pandemic Catalog Buyers