CATALOG MARKET OUTLOOK --Sales on Back Order
The major challenges facing catalog printers are to realize ongoing cost controls and reductions while boosting efficiency and achieving greater utilization of capacity, Spenlinhauer says. One effort under way at Spencer Press is to achieve improved penetration into the postal system. "By partnering with a logistics supplier to the mail order industry, we are able to track and control distribution at a much higher level and give our customers more accurate reports as to unload and in-homes dates," he explains.
Based on the observations of John Paloian, COO of Quebecor World North America in Greenwich, CT, it would seem that the National Weather Service might be a valuable aid in forecasting the catalog market. The often fickle buying behavior of consumers apparently can be influenced by factors far beyond anyone's control.
"The colder than normal weather experienced by much of the country at the start of the fourth quarter led to somewhat increased optimism for a stronger than anticipated finish to 2002," Paloian notes. "This, in turn, has led some catalogers to marginally increase their circulations in an attempt to capture more sales. However, looking forward to 2003, many catalogers are planning reduced circulations for the spring, but will finalize their plans based upon actual performance levels for the entire fourth quarter."
If the expected stability in postal rates projected for the next several years becomes a reality, it should have a positive impact on the catalog market, Paloian says. At press time, Postmaster General John E. Potter was saying the higher than expected funding of future retirement obligations for USPS employees had the potential to stabilize rates until 2006.
Even so, Paloian says he doesn't expect to see any significant growth in the total volume of the catalog market in 2003. However, performance will vary among the categories of catalogs. "Quebecor World's business strategy has been to carefully manage our client portfolio so as to minimize our dependency on any one market segment," he notes.