Did you hear about Restoration Hardware’s 2019 catalog, which was 730 pages? You might think of catalogs as old-school marketing, but this is one throwback that seems to be working just fine for retailers. The latest data says consumers spend an average of $850 on catalog purchases each year. Why are catalogs so hot right now? And how can you capitalize on this new, not-so-new trend?
Why are catalogs still relevant?
Catalog mailings have been steadily increasing since 2015. That may be because mailers have become fresh in an era of digital inbox clutter. And especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, people were doing more shopping from home than ever — with catalogs playing a part in their purchases. What it is about the tactile sensation of flipping through a catalog that remains pleasurable and fulfilling?
Catalogs are coming back, in part, because of nostalgia. You may be old enough to remember going through a catalog and circling your desires; today, most garden seed companies still count on this trend. In a nod to the power of print, digital juggernaut Amazon even launched its own toy catalog in 2018. There is data to support this practice; a few years ago CNBC said, “Millennials are more interested in catalogs than your grandmother is.” Catalogs give retailers a chance to tell their story, and viewers spend about 15 minutes — compared with 2 or 3 minutes in a digital format — poring over catalog content. Unlike the fleeting nature of digital information, a catalog sticks around for a while.
Sheridan’s own Susan Parente recently spelled out the influence of the catalog on human imagination: “While there is no doubt that actually placing an order online is highly preferred in almost every circumstance these days, it’s the print catalog that often acts as the portal, the gateway, the inspiration, the influence, and the storyteller that spurs us to buy.”
Most popular catalog styles right now
With catalogs experiencing a resurgence, what design and production trends do we see in 2021?
- From a category perspective, fashion/clothing catalogs are high on the list of popularity. Digital and storefront retailers from Anthropologie to Bonobos to J. Crew still send catalogs to their customers. L.L. Bean and Lands’ End cater to outdoor lovers. New players on the scene include UNTUCKit, which was first a digital-only brand.
- Home décor catalogs are perfect for inspiration, and Ikea may be the queen of this category. Brands like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel have similarly lush, high-end catalogs. Grandin Road, with its mix of art, furniture, and home décor, is another player in this space.
Catalogs are the perfect launch site for a multichannel shopping experience. Catalogs typically inspire the imagination and e-commerce sites close the deal, although a trip to a retail storefront may also be in order.
Future catalog trends to watch
Some of the hot trends we’re seeing in the catalog space include an increasing emphasis on nature. Designs are fresh and clean, with a non-cluttered feel. Sustainability is also top of mind, particularly as more consumers bought online during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of U.S. consumers say eco-friendly packaging is important to them.
With personalization an increasing trend, print on demand is expected to remain popular. Modern production methods give consumers what they demand but can also be tailored for an efficient, greener process that protects the environment. Having this kind of adaptability in the catalog space will completely change how we approach this advertising vehicle.
While these are just a few trends shaping catalog popularity, one thing is certain: The old standby catalog remains a popular medium for consumers, and digital strategies and techniques broaden its reach.
Contact your Sheridan representative, or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.