Seed catalogues may be menus for online ordering

November 25, 2008
Written by By Dean Fosdick, The Associated Press
Seed catalogues have come a long way from their 19th century origins, when they were valued as much for their art as their information. Now they serve as reference aids to computer users: Many consumers choose from catalogues but order from supplier websites.

"Catalogues are 'wish books' for gardeners, who sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee and pore over the pages, turning down corners and using sticky notes to mark the plants they want to grow come springtime,'' said Randy Schultz, a spokesman for the Mailorder Gardening Association, based in Elkridge, Md.

Why do many gardeners order from catalogues and websites? Many are looking for merchandise unavailable elsewhere (59 per cent); high quality products (51 per cent); convenience (50 per cent); reasonable prices (45 per cent); or are repeat customers, satisfied with earlier transactions (41 per cent), according to a recent study by the association.

Seed is one of the biggest bargains in gardening, and the variety is generally greater by mail or on the Internet than in a store, said George Ball, chairman and chief executive officer of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., in Warminster, Pa.

His company's dedicated catalogue shoppers, he said, "order earlier and spend more per purchase. All of which leads to a more demanding customer and one who likes a very wide range from which to choose.

"We offer 800 to 900 varieties in our catalogues, but only half of that in stores," Ball said. "It's simply a matter of preference and demand."

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