Fewer holiday catalogs but still plenty in mail

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Despite the flood around the holidays, annual catalog circulation by retailers has actually dipped substantially because of a postage increase, a weak economy and more shoppers making purchases online.

Marketers say nearly a third fewer catalogs are mailed than four years ago.

L.L. Bean is among those that have scaled back page counts and become choosier about who gets its catalogs. L.L. Bean's marketing chief Steve Fuller sees the trend accelerating, but he doesn't see catalogs going away. He says catalogs and online sales are intertwined, with catalogs serving as a tool to get customers' attention and to motivate them to make purchases, often online.

The precipitous drop in mailings follows a 23 percent average postage increase in 2007 for the category that includes standard-sized catalogs.

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