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Shopping by Mail

November 30, 1987|MARTHA GROVES

Ever wonder how your name gets on so many catalogue lists?

There are some sure-fire ways to get the attention of mail-order companies. If you make a catalogue purchase, contribute to a charity, take a magazine subscription, buy a house or apply for a credit card, your name may be placed on a list of potential spenders. Companies or organizations then "rent" these lists to cataloguers, usually for about $50 to $80 per 1,000 names.

Generally, a company buys the right to use a rented list only once. However, if you make a purchase, your name then becomes part of the

cataloguer's "in-house" list, and you're fair game from then on.

Lands' End, based in Dodgeville, Wis., also generates new customers by advertising in national publications or inserting referral cards into catalogues.

Sometimes, however, even the most dedicated catalogue reader says: "Enough's enough."

Getting off a catalogue list is undoubtedly more difficult than getting on, but there are ways. "To be fair to the mail-order companies," said Lisa Caugherty of the Direct Marketing Assn. in New York, "they really don't want to include names of people who don't want to receive material."

The easiest way to indicate a lack of interest is to check the "no" box on any applications that ask whether you want your name distributed. But if you've been receiving catalogues for a while and want your name purged from lists, try writing directly to the companies--a cumbersome process--or take advantage of a free service offered by the Direct Marketing Assn. Four times a year, it compiles a list of those who want to be removed from the national mailing lists. Write to the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Assn., 6 E. 43rd St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Can't get enough catalogues? Or you're the rugged, outdoors type who somehow got on the mailing list for silk flowers?

Jay Walker has the answer.

Walker is chairman of Catalog Retail Corp., a company in Danbury, Conn., that last February started distributing catalogues for sale at retail outlets. A test program at 1,000 Waldenbooks stores proved so successful that the company this Christmas is placing almost 6 million catalogues in 75,000 locations nationwide, including newsstands, bookstores, supermarkets, convenience stores and airports.

Participants include more than 200 catalogues with such big names as Williams-Sonoma, Brookstone, Horchow and Neiman-Marcus.

Back in 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward put out the nation's first catalogue--a flimsy sheet of parchment peddling silk fans, honey soap, parasols, cashmere suits and handkerchiefs. One hundred and thirteen years later, the catalogue giant he founded went out of business, a generalist passed by in an industry of specialists.

The merchant Ward would be astounded at the changes in catalogues since his day. For one thing, catalogues are much more chatty and entertaining.

Video catalogues, which shoppers can play at home on their VCRs, are also becoming a way for direct marketers to distinguish themselves. Royal Silk and Sears have produced their own tapes. And a Laguna Hills company, Home Video Marketplace, plans to distribute "videologs" through a network of video store operators who would receive a share of the proceeds.

Electronics will play a bigger role as interactive systems are perfected, predicted Maxwell Sroge, mail-order consultant. With these, consumers will be able to call up on a TV screen a product display and order by phone or home computer. Sears and J. C. Penney are testing similar programs now, outgrowths of the home shopping phenomenon pioneered on cable television by Home Shopping Network.

What would Aaron Montgomery Ward think of that?


Direct Mail Total 1986 Order Catalogue* Catalogue Spiegel **$1,000.0 **$1,000.0 Sears, Roebuck & Co. **927.8 3,711.4 J.C. Penney **583.2 2,332.0 Brylane (1) **475.0 475.0 L.L. Bean 367.8 367.8 Fingerhut **316.0 **316.0 Lands' End 265.0 265.0 Hanover House 256.0 256.0 Avon 216.2 216.2 General Mills (2) **200.0 **200.0 Foster & Gallagher **185.0 **185.0 TOTAL $4,792.0 $9,324.2

* Includes only catalogue orders delivered directly to the home. ** Estimates

(1) Division of the Limited Inc. (2) Through Eddie Bauer and Talbots catalogues

Source: Blunt Ellis & Loewi

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