Direct marketers from across the globe, meeting this week in Chicago for the 84th annual convention of the Direct Marketing Association, were told by DMA president/ceo H Robert Wientzen that the industry had not so far been affected by terrorist anthrax activity.

“So far, no commercial mail has been involved in sending anthrax through the mail. The likelihood of having a broadscale distribution of anthrax through a large mail campaign seems very, very unlikely,” reassured Wientzen.

Wientzen also read a statement from USPS deputy postmaster general John Nolan. This spelled out the two primary objectives of the postal service: to maintain the safety both of the public and USPS employees; and to keep the mail moving.

In turn, representatives of America’s catalog industry declared their support for the USPS. Major companies stressed their desire to continue using the mail as a delivery medium for their products: “We are going to work with [the Postal Service.] We believe commercial mail is safe. It's a safe way to shop, and we're looking forward to a good Christmas,” said Michael Sherman, president of Fingerhut, the Postal Service's leading catalog customer.

Nor do any of the assembled catalog giants intend to switch their allegiance from paper publications to the internet. Said Wientzen: “The reality is there is no substitute for ink on paper today. For the foreseeable future, this industry needs the Postal Service ... this country needs the Postal Service. The big fear that we now have is that this crisis will add a financial burden [to an already-struggling USPS] that they are unable to carry.”

Despite the upbeat note, delegates were advised to take positive steps to reassure mail recipients. These included inclusion on envelopes of the identity of the mailer. Urged Wientzen: “`It's more important to recognize who it's from and what it is.”

Some companies are going further to alleviate public anxiety, sending emails to customers to alert them that catalogs are in the mail.

News sources:; New York Times