When the credit crunch took hold last year, it stanched the usual flood of direct-mail credit-card mailings to U.S. consumers. The subsequent meltdown of the financial system had its own restraining effect on such offerings. But now, a report from Synovate says the research firm's Mail Monitor operation has detected a bottoming out in the volume of such solicitations.
In the second quarter of this year, says the report, households received 349.1 million credit-car offers in the mail. That's 67 percent lower than the level of mailings in the same quarter of 2008. But it's down just 6 percent from the level of first-quarter 2009. Some of the big mailers even increased their volume during the second quarter. Bank of America's mailings were up 77 percent from the first-quarter-2009 level, and Citibank's were up 65 percent. Noting that credit-card issuers have been growing less risk-averse than they were earlier in the recession, Synovate goes so far as to predict an "uptick" in card offers next year.
An earlier report from Mintel Comperemedia noted a stabilization (after two years of declines) in the number of mailings sent to households promoting mortgages and home-equity loans. But the nature of the offers has shifted, given lessons consumers have learned the hard way in the past year. Notably, direct-mail offers of adjustable-rate mortgages have "fallen out of favor," according to Mintel's analysis.
Of course, the fact that companies are making offers of credit cards and loans doesn't necessarily mean people are taking them up on it. Polls during the past year have consistently found consumers professing their aversion to taking on more debt of any sort. Typical of the genre was a Gallup poll released last month (based on fieldwork in June) in which 46 percent of respondents said it's "a bad time to borrow money," vs. 17 percent saying it's a "good time" to do so.
Nielsen Business Media