Why catalogs still have a hold on holiday marketing

Retail Dive – Many retailers have turned into fourth-quarter catalogers to cash in on the season’s sentimentality, while shoppers are crossing “irrelevant email marketing” off their lists this year.

Catalogs might be aimed at inspiration, but the hope is that the visual inspiration leads to a purchase, whether it be through the catalog, online or through a visit to the store. In that way, catalogs aren’t too different from the showroom format that retailers like Bonobos rely on, according to Ken Morris, a principal at Boston Retail Partners. It’s a trend he calls “catalog rooming” — where a customer uses a retailer’s holiday catalog to discover products and then heads into the store to see it in person and try it on, either finishing the purchase there or coming home to buy it online. 

It’s also a way to bring customers who might not have shopped in a while back into the fold, as retailers generally send out their holiday catalogs to a broader array of shoppers than they do the rest of the year. As long as they’re making $0.20 on every dollar they spend on a customer, the catalog will keep coming, Morris says — and the holidays provide more potential than the rest of the year for a big profit.

“Some of them, they’re in the red for nine months of the year and then the final three months of the year they go into the black and start to make a profit and hopefully that covers the loss,” Morris said, noting that depending on how sophisticated the retailer is, catalogs might also be tailored, placing a customer in one of a certain number of categories with different material in each. “It’s to the demographic that I fit into because they know what I buy — they know what’s in my closet, they know what’s in your closet.”

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