eBay readies print catalog for U.S. papers

The online auction company will send out 23 million glossy inserts with U.S. newspapers this weekend in a move to lure holiday shoppers online.

eBay will send millions of catalogs to U.S. doorsteps this weekend in an attempt to encourage shoppers to do their holiday buying online this year.

The San Jose, Calif.-based online auction company on Sunday will begin distributing 23 million eight-page color inserts inside 55 U.S. newspapers. The catalog is part of a newly launched marketing campaign by the company.

Other Internet companies, including Amazon.com and Yahoo, both sent out glossy inserts with some Sunday newspapers this past weekend, mimicking an advertising strategy long used by traditional retailers. The catalogs list some of the more popular items on the companies' Web sites, hoping to lure shoppers in a season analysts had expected could be grim because of the economic downturn and effects of Sept. 11.

Although the catalog may appear to be a bit offbeat for eBay because of the nature of its business, the move could help it bolster holiday sales.

"eBay's daily listings growth continues to be stronger than expected," Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget said in a research note Monday. He added that eBay could top his sales estimate for the fourth quarter. At $220 million, Blodget's estimate is already well ahead of Wall Street's consensus expectation of $210 million, according to First Call.

Goldman Sachs' Anthony Noto raised his estimates for the company Monday. He is now predicting earnings of 13 cents a share on sales of $215 million for the company's fourth quarter.