Print-Plus: Who Killed the Catalog?
For years now, critics have been saying the print catalog is dying. Going away. A relic that's being replaced by the internet. It was almost like the word "catalog" was dirty. Something out of date or old fashioned, or so it seemed.
If the catalog is dying, why did J.C. Penney recently decide to bring its back? Or why did Dell start mailing again after trying to get out of the catalog business several years ago? And why are companies like J.Crew, with more than 300 brick-and-mortar stores, such big believers in the print catalog?
You see, the truth is catalogs are far from dead. I've never thought for a minute that the catalog was dying. Even a few years back when all of the critics said it was and when trade publications were eliminating the word "catalog" from their mastheads, it was never a career-changing event for me. I've always believed in the power of a printed catalog and its impact on driving sales and revenues. Case in point: Catalogs are the single largest driver of traffic to the web. We know from matchbacks that 70 percent or more of all online orders are the direct result of mailing a catalog.
J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler goes over every one of the brand's catalogs with a fine-tooth comb before it's published. "I'm looking at the color; I'm looking at the clarity of a picture, the newness, the creativity," Drexler said in an interview with CNBC. Roughly 30 percent of J.Crew's revenue comes from online and catalog sales; the two are tightly intertwined. "Most of our business goes from catalog to online," Drexler said. "I'm always looking at the turn-on item or category or outfit that will drive them to want to shop at J.Crew instead of the millions of choices out there."