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SURVEY OF LEADING CATALOG COMPANIES SHOWS BRIGHTER PICTURE

      SURVEY OF LEADING CATALOG COMPANIES SHOWS BRIGHTER PICTURE
    CHICAGO, Dec. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- In an early December phone survey conducted by Chicago-based catalog consultants Maxwell Sroge Co., leading catalog companies reported Christmas sales are coming in better than most expected.
    The survey suggests consumers are being more careful in their gift selections, but still spending more on mail-order this season than last. While order sizes are down, transactions are up for many catalogers, resulting in an overall increase in sales.  For the most part, luxury items are out, practical gifts are in.  No matter what the item, consumers are looking for value prices, and those catalogers that anticipated the trend are succeeding.
    Minneapolis-based Damark, which specializes in discounted and discontinued merchandise, is reporting its best quarter ever, thanks to its low prices and a series of money-saving promotions.  Lillian Vernon, with an average price point of $17, also is reporting a strong season.
    Niche marketers of specialty gifts -- such as Hammacher-Schlemmer, Brookstone and The Sharper Image -- in particular are reporting stronger-than-expected results.  According to Maxwell Sroge, this suggests consumers are looking for more individualized gifts.
    Catalogers specializing in outdoorsy merchandise -- such as REI, Campmor and The Nature Co. -- are claiming to be "recession-resistant." The survey responses suggest consumers are willing to spend more for practical cold-weather gear and products representing an environmental cause.
    For many catalog companies, the recent upsurge in sales is coming as a welcome surprise.  Williams-Sonoma reports being "bewildered" by the record 96,000 orders it received the week ended Dec. 7.  And many others can't put their finger on why they're faring better this year than last.
    According to President Maxwell Sroge, the upbeat news is good for several reasons.  "Naturally catalogers are pleased, but what's more significant is that mail-order has always been a leading indicator," Sroge said.  "In my 30 years in the business, changes in mail-order sales have led declines and recoveries.  I think that what you're seeing is the first signs of business pickup.  I expect mail-order sales to beat 1990 by about 12 percent," Sroge added.
    For more information, see the Dec. 16 issue of Non-Store Marketing Report or contact Maxwell Sroge Co. at 312-819-1890.
    -0-           12/11/91
    /CONTACT:  Maxwell Sroge Co., 312-819-1890/ CO:  Maxwell Sroge Co. ST:  Illinois IN:  REA SU:  ECO FC-CK -- NY037 -- 1444 12/11/91 11:57 EST
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 11, 1991
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