Do we still have use for the catalogue?

By S Riches and N Cason

Catalogues – people either love them or hate them. Most of them are unsolicited junk mail and end up in our mailboxes uninvited but often if we join a business’s loyalty program we often unknowingly end up with a catalogue inviting us to envisage how we can integrate these products into our lives.


With the growth of the internet and online retail, catalogues have not disappeared and it certainly doesn’t seem as though the volume of catalogues being produced and coming through our mailboxes has slowed down.

Catalogues in fact are seen as very effective in getting people to spend money with those who use catalogues generally spending more money compared to those who only use the internet. Data on average order sizes by customers using either the internet or catalogues shows that catalogues outperform the internet by approximately 6%. The combined use of both channels actually results in even higher sales performance. People are reading catalogues and then using the internet to place their orders.

Catalogues can not only connect customers to a product but also to the brand. Data from the United States indicates the average catalogue takes about $1 to produce and send but that the return on investment is high, bringing in approximately $2 for every prospective customer and $10 for returning customers.


It’s still a very, very important part of our marketing mix. Consumers “look through it to get ideas and inspiration. And if we do a good job, they get ideas for things they didn’t even know they wanted before they got there.”

Pat Connolly, Chief Marketing Officer – Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Flicking through a catalogue is a fairly easy, you can read it anywhere and flick through the pages without turning on a computer. You can circle products, mark pages, put it down and pick it up later on.   As Iacobucci (2014) suggests, catalogues still dominate because they are beautiful and sensual.

A recent report which surveyed 300 UK businesses including B2B and B2C companies across multiple industries, found that nearly half of the businesses did not believe catalogues were required.  Ian Simpson, Managing Director of Catalogues4Business (C4B), was baffled with these results and believes that printed marketing material is far from dead and is an excellent additional method for business to market their products and brands.

Personally we love a good catalogue. It’s easy to get hooked on beautiful glossy productions and we actually do find ourselves searching online after being inspired.

We’re selective though….there’s junk mail and then there’s junk mail!

Where do you sit?  

Do you love or hate catalogues or are they just junk mail?   Do you look through catalogues and then make purchases online or go into the store?


Alive and Kicking: Traditional Print Catalogues to Bolster Digital Sales? accessed 9/5/15 Is the catalog dead? accessed 9/5/15

Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogues.  accessed 9/5/15

Are catalogues in businesses outdated?…/22010-are-catalogues-in-businesses-outdated accessed 16/5/15

Iacobucci, D. (2014) Marketing Management (MM) South Western, Cengage Learning, Mason, chapter 2.


30 thoughts on “Do we still have use for the catalogue?

  1. Interesting blog! As for myself there are two types of catalogues that interest me, first the things I may need and secondly beautifully drafted catalogs that make things desirable, even though we know we may never use them.
    Rightly said that catalogues market or print media is definitely not dead and may actually attract buyers towards the products that may be much down in their list.
    Creativity plays a big role in success of catalogues. I believe that catalogues have a longer shelf life than other advertisement medias.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good post! Regarding you question, it really depends on what kind of catalogues they are. I love nice catalogues of clothing and shoes. I like the catalogues of Coles and Woolworths, so I could quickly check special offers for the following week. But I hate those unwanted catalogues…After I look through catalogues, I usually go into the store to have a look and make the purchases.

    Catalogues are the most popular marketing tool for good reason. They are affordable, branded, and popular with a high ROI. Studies show that catalogue marketing produces a reliable and measurable sales spike. Catalogues remain an effective vehicle to deliver detailed price and product information to clients that is popular, user friendly and affordable. Moreover, The Australasian Catalogue Association (ACA) has released its FY2014 Industry Report, revealing that catalogues have more influence on shoppers than television, email or the Internet.

    Hope these information above could help your essay!


  3. Catalogues done well are hard to throw away…so they end up floating around the house and being a soft reminder of the brand. They are also a fantastic way to tell your company’s story. Someone I think do catalogues really well is Lorna Jane, they do a bi-monthly ‘Active Mag’. It ‘trains’ customers to come in every second month to collect, it is filled with articles & recipes that support the brands philosophy, and most importantly it is also filled with product! So as the customer reads the articles, generally about the people they aspire to be, they are seeing them in Lorna Jane product. Very clever!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Catalogues!! I love them. They do definitely still serve a purpose in the constantly evolving world of marketing. I cant say how long retailers will see them as a viable source of communicating to their desired consumer, as the digital age means you can access websites and e-catalogues for most major retailers. Although they do tend to make you think about the stores in question, as I don’t know if I would necessarily look up a Big W or Target catalogue unless I had a specific reason to do so. Having said that, I feel there would be a large amount of the older population that would still frequent catalogue viewing often, and with intent as a driving factor. The older person who isn’t up to date with technology does not want to have to play around on a website to find information they have always previously had delivered directly to their door.

    When the catalogue arrives in my mail box I see it as a perfect reason to flick through and peruse the glossy pages, filled with specials and new product advertisements. I’m would say that it can lead me to making a purchase, but not necessarily. I already plan on visiting a supermarket on the weekend, so when I look through their catalogues I am more just making a mental note of what they have, and what I might want. As for the specialty and department stores, their catalogues play a more conscious role. If I find something that I like, something that I really want, then I will make a special trip to that retailer, if I think I can afford it. If I cant afford it at the time it may lead me to add it to my mental wish list, which is bursting at the seams, and doesn’t get emptied very often.

    They do sometimes lead me to looking at certain retailers online, but I would say that this is not often. More for me the catalogue is a preview of what I’ll be looking for on the weekend, or of things I wish I could afford, but can’t.


  5. I absolutely adore catalogues, especially from luxury retailers as they are so beautiful and make wonderful coffee table books. It also is a good advertising strategy to trigger customers to think about that brand. For example, Tiffany and Hermes mail their catalogues to previous clients in order to update them and trigger them to think about that brand again. They also work as a wonderful tool to assess how products consistently change in price. A 2013 catalogue for Tiffany & Co. advertises the Return To Tiffany mini bead bracelet at $205 and the 2015 catalogue states $230.


  6. catalogs provides several advantages to a small company with no name recognition and limited resources. I see many of them talking about printed catalogs but don’t you think online catalogs will be an affective way for marketing as it can reach hundreds of thousands of readers with just one mailing. It also reduces Cost and man power.


  7. I think catalogues are still useful and help attract customers. Take a look at Ikea. The company is famous for its catalogues and it seems a lot of people have them in their collection every year. Realising how important its catalogue, Ikea even prepares other tv and print advertisements just to let people know that the catalogues are coming (generally in July/August).

    While technology has advanced and more catalogues are becoming online, I believe that the printed catalogues are still playing their roles in capturing wider audiences.


  8. Thanks for the blog. I can tell from my experience, when a company is running a catalogue promotion, the sales will definitely been lifted up. We know it’s not cheap to run a catalogue shops, like Woolies, Coles and etc, but still lots of the companies are willing to do so. This proves the catalogues are working for some people out there. One of the things people can do on the toilet.


  9. I have to agree with my colleagues, I do love junk mail and get very frustrated when it is not delivered. I like to see what is on special at Woolworths and Coles and what Aldi is bringing in that week to sell. It was interesting reading your facts to know that catalogues are still needed as I did wonder with the internet age how much longer catalogues would be around. I do think however that the reason why people prefer to read catalogues is that they are delivered to your door step, it has the most current information (as some websites are not easy to navigate). Also if my job requires me to look at a computer all day, I do like the idea of having a break from it and reading a catalogue.
    With an increasing older generation and a cost of living going up, I think there is still a place for catalogues as people want to know where they can save money. Catalogues are easy to navigate and they make on line shopping a bit quicker.
    A quick question I know you mentioned that catalogues are still needed, did you find anything on how much longer though? I ask this because organisations are going paperless for environmental purposes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I work for an independent B2C retailer. One year we decided to save costs and not do the catalogue as we also have an online shop and we thought people could look there. Well, the customers went mental. Where was their catalogue? Phone call after phone call demanding to know where their cataolgue was. No, they didn’t want to look online, they wanted to circle products and fold the pages over, show their friends over coffee and bring the catalogue into the shop with them when they were ready to purchase. Needless to stay we reinstated the catalogue the following year followed by a rise in sales. Some of our customers use the catalogue and online. They tend to look in the catalogue first and then check online to see if the item is currently available and if the price has changed, and also to see if there are any specials/sales on. Oh no, the catalogue is not dead!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I also love catalogues! The catalogues I love fall into 2 categories. Firstly I like to read the supermarket catalogues each week as they highlight new products and items that are on special. This is important to me as I’m not the grocery shopper in our household so it gives me the information I need in order to request new products when my husband does the shopping to to request bulk purchases for favourite items that might be on a good discount. Secondly, I love catalogues from my favourite fashion retailers- they are beuatifully constructed and styled campaigns that help me to inspire me about future purchases. I get immersed in the beautiful images and if I like the campaing I think it typically does at least result in me visiting that store next time I’m shopping and more often or not I will also make a purchase.


  12. Have to agree with everyone here. I too love the catalogue. I however never read the supermarket catalogue but read the Coles magazine ( is that just a more sophisticated catalogue). I hate the supermarket and chemist catalogue full of items I would buy regularly (low involvement purchases. On higher involvement purchases however the catalogue is terrific. Have you noticed the Aldi catalogue – two catalogues in one – supermarket on one half but when you reverse it is a catalogue of all the other things they sell – I never read the first half but enjoy seeing what else may be on sale. I think its Ski gear this week.


  13. Pretty interesting topic and have to agree to the fact that people like the catalogues. With the rise and rise of internet shopping, catalogue marketing can be relevant but the company’s have to be smarter about it. They shouldn’t just print a catalogue and blast it out to everyone you can.
    Consumers like catalogues and flyers because they are easier to refer to later, often informative, easier to understand.The 40+ demographic finds them highly relevant. Younger consumers see catalogues as entertaining, but even in this age group, 28-30% rank them as the medium most likely to influence purchase.
    Catalogues are easy to use, portable, trusted and durable! Over 70% of consumers keep catalogues in their home for more than a month. A third keep them for up to a year.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your blog is interesting.. Even I will see for junk mails because whenever I feel like doing nothing and I would be seeing the mail box and see the catalogue at least to the pictures in it. but later that influence me to make any purchase on any products.


  15. I still really enjoy catalogues, and get quite disappointed as the junk mail delivery is inconsistent at my house.

    Because of this, I use the app…. it’s supposed to be a shopping app, but you can access all the catalogues based on your postcode. I use the app frequently, but if the paper catalogues were delivered to me on a regular basis i would prefer to flip through than then use the app.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I am also a member of the catalogue fan club. I love to see what is new in store and what is on sale. So much so, when I shop for my groceries online I start with the catalogue where I can conveniently shop straight from their specials. I will also often make a special trip to a retailer where I have seen something on sale. Clearly catalogues are having the desired effect on me – I am purchasing products that I have seen in a catalogue (I think they would call me a marketers dream).

    Based on the responses above, catalogues are not dead. Catalogues appeal to consumers on many levels and for this reason they will remain relevant. It would be unwise for a company to move away from this tool given.


  17. I don’t mind catalogues if they are for staff I’m interested in like groceries and cloths, but I must admit I do get irritated if I find a whole lot of them stashed in my letter box. When that happens, I end up throwing the whole lot out because I couldn’t be bothered trying to sort them out. That said, I still think catalogues still play an important role in advertising and should not be done away with.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I probably more likely to buy something based on what I see online than in a catalogue. I tend to grocery shop in the same place regardless of specials (I like to know my way around so I don’t have to spend much time shopping), and when I make a decision to buy something else I am mostly likely to look online for it and read reviews.

    Great article, thanks


  19. Thanks everyone for the great comments, it appears there is a consistent theme here that everyone still loves a catalogue to look at. So whilst some evidence suggests that the catalogue is dead, and the studies as mentioned in the blog seem to indicate some businesses think that, it appears there is a good argument that they do in fact inspire people to look at products and then proceed to purchase online or go in store.


  20. Interesting post~

    I love catalogue too, I think catalogue is very helpful and useful.

    This is bucause catalogue is a low cost of sales, wide coverage, messaging faster sales. In fact, this is a transitional stage that the traditional commercial sales to modernization Internet sales. Its unique promotion methods and novel marketing tool, and it will launch a strong challenge to the traditional retail trade.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I think one of the main reasons catalogues are so popular for marketers is that it is one of the most cost effective methods of pushing your promotions onto your customers. When compared to TV, Radio, Newspapers, Billboards the catalogue is very cost effective.

    Customers definitely enjoy the medium as can be attested by the majority of respondents to this blog. Attributes such as being informative, easy to understand, appeal to the senses, up to date information. They are a great medium for raising awareness of products which can be followed up and purchased or require further investigating online or via phone.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. In my line of work, the product catalogue still has a place in our workplace. I feel it’s revolutionised over the years from your standard print version to multiple mediums such as soft copies (PDF) and online catalogues. The desertion of the catalogue IMO will never happen as long as it’s able to adapt to the new distribution channels. Another interesting point is that many larger organisations now inlcude advertising of complimentary products in their catalogues i.e Tiffany & Co. including jewellery cleaning services or high end services. So not only are they promoting a broad product range they’re also paying for themselves or even better bringing in a profit for an organisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Extremely surprised at the fact that catalogues outperform the Internet. I personally dont buy products out of a catalogue but I do enjoy reading them. Even from the supermarkets I usually flick through them and see whats on special and comment at wanted to try this and that but by the time I go supermarket shopping I have forgot everything and just do my usual shop. I guess for big families on a budget it would be useful to see what meat specials are on to prepare what to cook for the week and save money. I still believe catalogues are a useful marketing tool, however, I cannot see them replacing other popular tools such as the Internet, TV, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Catalogue gives the idea and inspiration for customers to know about the products or services which the company can provide for them; the beauties or the catalogue can also attract the customers to start reading it.
    For me, if I think the catalogue is pretty, I will still bring it home even I am not looking for anything; it seems like provide an opportunity for me to purchase from them when I need it. Sometimes, catalogue will send out by mail, people give it out from the street or just putting in an area and let people take it themselves. Of course, the design of the catalogue is very important; weather it should be distinct and simple.
    Most of people do not like junk mail but I do believe that catalogue can attract new customers for the company; this is a good example for distribution channel. Thank you for you sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Catalogs are one of the advertising options available in the market. the catalog advertising costs very little than other advertising options. It would be feasible for small scale companies which has low reputation to get into the market. Even the large scale companies advertise through catalogs to improve their business by letting the customers know the deals that are available in their stores. we get useful information through catalogs with no cost, but not all the catalogs are useful for everyone but some which we need. Nice blog. As of my view catalogs are good advertising option in the market. Thanks for the blog.


  26. Sometimes I like to read catalogue especially for fashion items. They are beautifully designed and printed. Catalogue will be useful for the items that are not available online and not in stock. They give more options to customers to buy. However, I don’t like to keep them and I still think catalogues are waste of money. Usually for retail stores that also have online stores, it is a lot easier and cost savings to check the items online. Customers can also check the older stock too if they are still available online to give more options.
    On the other hand, Catalogue marketing is important if you join an expo or exhibition to market your products and especially when you don’t have online store. I have been to several exhibition and I like to collect catalogues for the items that interest me. There are lots of exhibitors with different type of products and by having the catalogues, they can remind you with their products and can make the decision to purchase them later.
    Catalogue can also influence your decision making and emotion. “For example, if you have a camping equipment catalog, it makes sense to use what your customers love about camping in your advertisements. Think canoes and sunrises; or a happy couple sipping coffee on the dock with the same glass French Press on page 14 of your catalog. Creating that emotional response is a good way to put the consumer in a place they want to be”.


  27. My sister works for Ikea in the marketing department and helps produce the annual Ikea catalogue. I know there is considerable amount of cost to produce this catalogue as it worked on all year round, but i believe the interest it generates and immediate return after producing such a catalogue does make it a profitable exercise, at least for Ikea.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. actually, i hate catalogue. when i see a catalogue ,i have to associate with lot of junk mails which in my mail box. Almost every catalogue is filled by all kinds of advertising, usually you cannot find much useful information from it. To me , i prefer search my required information on the Internet. It is more efficient and effective.


  29. I work in the I.T sector and absolutely love catelogues as it one of the few tangible print items that I’m in contact with. It is a nice relief to flick through a catelogue, take in information while giving my eyes a break from the computer screen. No ‘No junk mail’ sign on my letter box. Thanks for the great blog.


  30. Human perspective remains, if you like it any junk mail would be good, and if you don’t like it continues to remain as a junk. I am one of those who love marking pages, circling products when I find it interesting, come back later, decide before placing order online.

    An altogether different perspective, but , sometimes catalogues have an edge over other advertising techniques owing to its affordability ( anyone can afford , be it advertising or accessing it ), maximizing its target audience .

    Internet definitely plays an important role, but given the flickering network and connectivity issues with the internet, one would want to use a catalogue, and just use Internet for placing order online.
    Few of the research studies say, most of the leads could not be converted to probable customers because they couldn’t navigate through the next page (owing to complete dependency on internet ) detailed view of the product diluting their interest to buy the product.

    Probably, catalogues are no longer the first point of attraction , but they aren’t completely dead either. I as a buyer would be more comfortable with a catalogue than any other channel.

    As someone said, “Old habits die hard” !

    An amazingly interesting read ! Thank you for this beautiful piece .


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