The merchandise sector is packed with categories, ranging from cosmetics to cemetery lots, appliances to automotive, foods to fashions. In fact, our Who’s Mailing What! Archive lists 31 merchandise categories. As a result, you’d expect it to take up a sizeable chunk of the mailstream. It did just that in the third quarter (July through September) of 2004, 2005 and 2006, always hovering between 5 percent and 6 percent. In the third quarter of this year, however, merchandise slipped to 3.8 percent of the total mailings received.
Although, within that 3.8 percent, much experimentation was evident. After repeat mail taking up between 27 and 29 percent of merchandise efforts in prior years, only 12 percent of third quarter mailings in 2007 repeated. Fewer repeats can be partly explained by postal rate changes, as the average effort got smaller—and this also explains why only 21.3 percent of merchandise mail went with a premium offer, after 33.3 percent in 2006 and 35.4 percent in 2005 did so.
Attempts to stay current, by using personalization and the self-mailer format, was noticeable despite less overall spending in this sector. In the third quarter of this year, 26 percent of merchandise efforts used personalization—up from 21 percent in 2006—and 54.6 percent were self-mailers, which was comparable to 2006’s 56.2 percent and 2005’s 51.4 percent.