With concern about anthrax sweeping the nation, direct mail is looking increasingly unattractive as a marketing strategy for retailers.

Many are turning to the Internet as a safe and viable solution. Peter Arnell of the Arnell Group, a division of Omnicron Group told the Wall Street Journal: "All of a sudden, the web will be critical again. In order to remove anxiousness, and talk to people, we're going to have to redefine direct marketing, and more than likely we'll do that through the web."

Some bigger firms, such as Macy's and Nordstrom, have promoted clothing lines by sending out CDs featuring music hits to teenage shoppers. Neither company would comment on the future of these strategies in the wake of current concerns, which may lead consumers to throw away promotional material received by mail, rather than risk opening it.

A spokesman for Draft Worldwide, a division of Interpublic Group, said that the move is likely to be away from freebies and catalogs to the Internet as a way to showcase products. The change in strategy would be as much down to the economic downturn as to recent news events.

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