Response To Looking Ahead To 2008:
Kevin: Three cheers for highlighting some of the more important trends coming at the catalog community in 2008. Thanks also for putting the ACMA in your blog so my Google alert would let me know you posted something I should respond to. I concur that we must monitor what is being said about our brands and company, responding when we can. Without this, the conversation lacks balance and meaning. We must also monitor what is being said about our industry for the same reason.
If one has been following popular print, net and broadcast media coverage concerning cataloging over the past three months, and assuming catalogs are an important part of one’s marketing overall mix, one must be deeply troubled by some popular notions that seem to be emerging: “cataloging is not eco-friendly” or “catalog companies are indifferent or do not honor the interests of customers.” Both of these assertions – wholly unopposed as far as I have been able to tell – are completely false. The catalog companies we work with at American Catalog Mailing Association are customer focused, corporately responsible and completely committed to environmental stewardship. ACMA catalogers I speak with regularly relate changes to their business processes, purchasing specifications, supplier compliance requirements, and marketing decisions made to specifically accede to customer preferences or global concerns. Unfortunately, as you point out in your December 26th entry, no one seems to be telling this side of the story, nor extolling the environmental positives of cataloging. Unfortunately, ACMA is not currently configured to address this industry need; it is up to our members and board to determine if this is a focus area for our new association. However, you do touch on some areas the ACMA is very active in.
“The silent partners pointing [us] toward a future that we find increasingly difficult to understand and control” are external parties on whom catalogers depend and who increasingly control the economic environment underlying catalog success. A properly organized and funded trade association can make significant progress impacting some of these external influencers to a degree difficult for even the largest (>$1 billion) companies and virtually impossible for smaller companies. One of the more significant external influencers is the USPS. ACMA has been actively addressing the postal environment. Our work in this past eight months has convinced us that this industry can manage its postal affairs more effectively than in the past. With so many issues on the table that will control our future for decades, provided we continue our aggressive work, 2008 will be a much better year than the one now ending.
ACMA is also at work to understand better the issues surrounding do not mail, consumer choice and the environmental impact of catalog mailing. We expect to take a public position on these issues in 2008 and to work with the catalog community and the broader public constituency to help navigate across these complex and related issues.
As an industry we must come together to proactively manage our business environment. There is an enormous amount we can do together efficiently. ACMA is a perfect vehicle for this. While we are puny compared to the other established trade organizations covering this market space, unlike most others we are wholly focused on issues for those merchants who use catalogs as an important part of their business strategy. Yet with only 60 out of an estimated 20,000 catalogers actively supporting our work, we must continue our rapid growth. In 2008, I would challenge all such firms to take a close look at ACMA and to consider getting involved with us. We cannot continue this work without significant support from all catalog merchants.
Thank you for your work to highlight some important issues. I look forward to continuing the conversation in the year to come!
Posted by Hamilton Davison, Executive Director, American Catalog Mailers Association
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