Online shopping is making headlines these days, but plenty of people still turn to catalogues for their shopping needs. In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association, catalogue sales are expected to exceed $93 billion this year, with Internet sales racking up an estimated $11 billion. (Catalogues aren't taking any chances, though; most have Web sites as well. )
Here are some holiday gift-buying ideas from the world of mail-order.
For millennium-inspired candies, check out Bissinger French Confections, which offers chocolate-covered mints (12 pieces, $14) and caramel lollipops (10 for $17.50), all decorated with colorful marzipan champagne glasses, Y2K computer monitors and other 2000-inspired designs. Call 1-800-325-8881; www.bissingers.com. If your gift list includes horse lovers, golfers or anyone who likes the beach, look to Harbor Sweets, a 20-year-old Salem, Mass., candy company. The chocolate-covered pecan and caramel sand dollars (30 pieces, $35.50) are especially charming, as are the starfish and sea horse chocolates (12 for $7.75), which are also available in a sugar-free assortment (12 for $7.75). Call 1-800-243-2115; www.harborsweets.com. And for traditional bonbons, you can't beat venerable See's Candies, whose current catalogue includes everything from kosher sweets (8.7 ounces, $7.25) to cutaway photos of each of See's 42 different bonbons. It's the visual equivalent of taking a bite to see what's inside--and a good way to assemble customized boxes (1 to 5 pounds, $14 to $70). Call 1-800-347-7337; www.sees.com.
There's something almost refreshing about the down-home quality of smokehouse catalogues, especially the current offering from Ozark Mountain Family, which has been shipping turkeys (7 to 11 pounds, $47.75 to $57.75), hams and other smoked products since 1946. Call 1-800-643-3437; www.ozarkfamily.com. Another 50-plus-year veteran of the mail-order business is New Braunfels Smokehouse, which offers a variety of hickory-smoked meats, including an impressive selection of jerky (beef, turkey and pork; $22 to $25 per pound)--perfect for any Atkins dieter on your gift list. Call 1-800-537-6932; www.nbsmokehouse.com. And from Smithfield's own Gwaltney there are any number of Tidewater specialties in a range of sizes, including Smithfield hams and country hams ($46 to $72). Call 1-800-292-2773; www.smithfieldhams.com.
NUTS & SUCH
For plenty of families, it's just not holiday time until Aunt Edna's big delivery of nuts--or popcorn or potato chips or pretzels--arrives at the door. For the ultimate chip lover, skip past the corny tin containers in the Utz catalogue and go for broke with a 3- or 6-pound cardboard carton ($9.60 to $16.75 ) of Grandma Utz Handcooked potato chips. Call 1-800-367-7629, ext. 138; www.utzsnacks.com. The packaging used by Ace Specialty Foods is a little more sedate--but not by much. Send a wooden crate full of pistachios (4 pounds, $42.99) or shelled almonds (5 pounds, $39.99). Call 1-800-323-9754; www.acespecialty.com. For the best containers, check out The Squire's Choice, which offers nuts and other finger foods in tasteful tins, bulk-priced boxes and 3-pound burlap bags. Call 1-800-523-6163.
Tis the season for cookies-- especially for children. Williams-Sonoma makes holiday baking easy with a Kids Cookie Kit ($26, catalogue only) that includes a rolling pin, cookie cutters, icing pens and cellophane gift bags. Call 1-800-541-2233 . La Madeleine's new catalogue contains a number of kid-friendly items, including four pails of cookie dough ($29.95), a chef's apron and hat set ($19.95) and a baking set ($49.95) that features its own pop-up sponge for cleanup. Call 1-800-956-9807; www.lamadeleine.com.
A brand-new catalogue, GreatFood.com, calls itself a "netalog" because it's designed as a companion to its Web site. It's an edited assortment of what's available online, and offers plenty to choose from including fruit, caviar, seafood, prime beef and desserts. Call 1-800-841-5984; www.greatfood.com. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Zingerman's, a 17-year-old catalogue full of witty food items, witty prose and slightly goofy illustrations. Highlights include Zingerman's Rockin' Reuben Sandwich Kit (4 for $80) and Better Than Grandma's Gift Basket ($50). Call 1-888-636-8162 .