More Retailers Are Using Print Catalogs To Drive Online Sales

Image courtesy of (Matt McGee)

Last week, JCPenney announced that part of its comeback strategy is to…bring back its print catalogs. That seems counterintuitive when more people are shopping online, but it isn’t. JCPenney and Restoration Hardware aren’t alone in bringing back catalogs printed on dead trees. Only they aren’t the catalogs that you might have used in 1987: they’re glossy branded magazines.

Abercrombie & Fitch was ahead of this trend: the clothing company used to sell A&F Quarterly, which was more of a magazine featuring the brand’s clothing rather than a catalog that you could order from. Parents and other moral scolds thought that it was more of a big, glossy book of softcore pornography, but that just increased the quarterly’s appeal to its target audience. They had to visit the store to buy the catalog/magazine/lookbook, which was kind of the point.

Land’s End was one of the first brands to understand the importance of the catalog to its customers, learning early in the e-commerce era that people flipped through catalogs, then went online to place their actual orders. Other retailers are learning this, too, and using their catalogs to tell stories and sell their brands rather than just showing detailed photos of products.

“There are moments when people want to slow down, and there’s still an important place for the catalog,” a retail strategist told the New York Times. My translation: people like to flip through catalogs while they’re on the toilet.

Catalogs, After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times [New York Times]

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