Pulp Magic

DECEMBER 5, 2016

Catalogs Bring Quiet to Christmas Craze

The frantic run-up to Christmas easily makes the Scrooges among us say “Bah, Humbug!” Not me–I think it’s great! There’s nothing like getting lost in holiday music, wishful advertisements, shipping deliveries and endless commotion! There’s another Christmas tradition that I enjoy as much as Christmas cards: holiday catalogs!

I turn to these magazine-like pages to find that perfect gift.  Cooking gadgets from Williams-Sonoma or beautiful Italian leather boots seen in a Nordstrom catalog. These product showcases transport us to enjoy the aspirational lifestyle they paint for us. I have to say there is something about curling up in the corner of the couch with a cup of tea and a stack of catalogs roaming page after page of items you can have at your fingertips (once ordered of course).

Traditional catalogs are especially effective when targeted to its reader. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 45% of women say catalogs stimulate their interest in a retailer’s products, and an enormous 86% have bought an item after first seeing it in a catalog. That “intangible” catalog shopping experience could be why J.C. Penney brought back its catalog last year after a 5-year hiatus.

And not only do catalogs plant ideas, but they drive online sales. The DMA reports that 58% of online shoppers say they browse catalogs for ideas, and 31% have a retailer’s catalog with them when they make a purchase online. Williams-Sonoma found that more than half of purchases made on their website are catalog-driven. When looking at the purchases made by its customers across all channels, that figure jumps to 70%.

Pile of magazines on table.

And it’s not just brick and mortar retailers who rely on catalogs to create interest. Have you heard about The Secret Catalog? Of course not, it’s a secret. But it may also be a glimpse of the future. If you want to buy from The Secret Catalog’s curated collection of hipster fashion items online, you first have to order the print catalog. In it is a password that gives you access to its digital marketplace

And then of course, there is the Christmas catalog from Neiman Marcus (how about a walk-on role in the Broadway musical Waitress?) Or the exportable “Hamper” from the internationally renowned London retailer Harrods? But now even Frito-Lay has an upscale holiday catalog. Where else can you find perfume for the one you love that smells like snack food?

Okay so Frito-Lay’s catalog may be designed to generate more buzz than revenue but the message is clear: catalogs are as integral to the holiday shopping experience as coupons on Black Friday. They haven’t been replaced by websites. In fact, they’re another example of paper and digital working best together. Another example – and a great “experience” gift idea – is an online subscription service like meals from Blue Apron or DIY crafts from WhimseyBox or, if you’re at a total loss, a monthly box of random knick-knacks from Fancy. These ecommerce gifts, courtesy of corrugated packaging, go beyond just the product in the box; they create an experience for the end-user that can extend beyond the holidays.

And if you’re wondering what to get me this year, I’ve been eyeing a pair of “flaming hot leggings” courtesy of Frito Lay’s Cheeto’s brand, the perfect addition to my workout wardrobe!!!