Some online retailers like Bonobos, Amazon, and Wayfair have started publishing catalogs in recent years. A few that have left, like Sharper Image, have returned.
PORTLAND, Maine – A sharp increase in postage rates over the summer hasn’t stopped catalog retailers from filling mailboxes this holiday season.
The U.S. Postal Service says more than 300 million catalogs were flooded into people’s mailboxes last month, and the total number of catalogs increased 12% from last year, officials said. .
The push continues a positive trend for cataloguers who challenge those who predicted their demise in a digital world.
“The industry is not dying. Many companies continue to aggressively distribute catalogs by mail, ”said Paul Miller, vice president and associate director of the American Catalog Mailers Association.
Some online retailers like Bonobos, Amazon, and Wayfair have started publishing catalogs in recent years. A few that have left, like Sharper Image and J. Peterman, have come back. Heavyweights like Lands’ End, Hammacher Schlemmer and LL Bean have never wavered.
Several factors work in favor of catalog retailers.
Additionally, some find online shopping difficult to navigate – a space that is muddled with algorithms, marketing and advertising, analysts say, making it difficult for people to find what they want.
Jonathan Zhang, professor of marketing at Colorado State University, said another big factor is that catalog and store buyers are more brand loyal than people who buy only online.
His research found a higher ROI for catalogs, as these buyers buy more than online-only buyers.
Internet clutter tends to produce shoppers looking for specific things, preventing “chance finds” shoppers make while browsing a store or catalog, he said.
New York buyer Helen Kaplow recognizes that it’s easier to flip through catalogs and circle items of interest or follow pages rather than scrolling through websites. One of her favorite catalogs this time of year comes from The Vermont Country store.
“The catalogs seem a bit dated. They are so analog. But I think that might be their only way to get visuals in front of you, ”said Kaplow, who hasn’t set foot in a store in years.
Nevertheless, catalogs are still expensive to print and mail.
The U.S. Postal Service punched the industry this year with a 3% increase in shipping costs in January followed by an additional and unexpected increase of almost 9% implemented in August.
But consumer spending remains hot and catalogs are a way for retailers to differentiate themselves, so it makes sense that retailers who can afford to distribute catalogs do, Lipsman said.
Catalog numbers fell about 40% between 2006 and 2018, when around 11.5 billion people were mailed to homes, but they have leveled off and are showing signs of increasing volume, according to ACMA’s Miller.
Miller said catalogs won’t be going away anytime soon, in part because they have autonomy from the fleeting impact of emails, online ads and other digital communications.
“People are used to clicking and forwarding, but the catalog is still there, on your coffee table. This will continue to inspire you to shop, ”he said.