Agency mail order firms 'must adapt'

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LARGE home catalogue companies such as Great Universal Stores and Empire must adapt to new home shopping methods if they are to prosper, according to a report by Verdict Research, the retail consultancy.

Small catalogue groups such as N Brown, which offers a range of catalogues for older people and those which special needs, and Kleeneze, which produces the Innovations catalogue, are doing well, the report says. But agency mail order companies are 'stuck in a rut'.

It claims that catalogue prices are up to a fifth more expensive than on the high street, because of the cost of offering credit to their agents. 'This makes it extremely difficult for them to appear to give good value for money at a time when that is uppermost in consumers' minds.'

Verdict says home shopping - which includes both mail order and direct selling - grew by 7.6 per cent in 1993 to pounds 5.6bn. Direct selling rose by 8 per cent compared with 7.5 per cent for traditional mail order, with Next and N Brown enjoying the fastest growth.