“Catalogues drive online”. That’s the verdict from the chief executive of N Brown Group Alan White, who was speaking at the ECMOD Conference last month.
N Brown is the corporate name behind Simply Be, JD Williams and Jacamo--mail order brands catering for a plus-size or older consumer. The company has a £90 million annual budget for print, and although it wants to shift some of that spend to digital initiatives, White acknowledges that doing so is much easier said than done. Speaking at the Power Panel session, he said that when N Brown’s brands reduce a catalogue’s pagination, “online sales drop too”.
His comments were echoed by Julian Granville of Boden, who admitted his company has had “little success in weaning people off catalogues”. He told delegates, “we are finding that if you take product out of catalogues sales [of those items] drop markedly—at least by 50 percent”.
This goes some way to explain why we’re seeing an upward trend in the number of catalogues mailed in the run-up to Christmas. Multichannel retailers recognise that catalogues are one of the most effective tools to prompt people to shop online. In November 2012 we received 186 catalogues, a 5 percent increase on November 2011 and an 11 percent increase on November 2010. It’s also a rise of 9 percent on October’s volume, signalling also that Christmas really is getting later every year.
Mailers in November seemed to hold back on special offers, with 53 percent of all catalogue covers making no mention of free delivery, a discount or a free gift. In fact, we tracked a decline in each one of those promotions. All told, November 2012 shared more in common with November 2011 than October 2012.
A third of catalogues (32.8 percent) featured a discount or sale on the cover. That’s in line with November 2011 (32.6 percent), but appreciably less than the 43.3 percent we recorded in October 2012. Educational toys specialist BrightMinds, the Duvet & Pillow Warehouse and hampers and gifts business GiftsDirect, were among those opting to sweeten the deal for customers with the promise of a special discount in November.
When it came to free delivery, 21 percent of the catalogues we received promoted free p&p on the front cover. Again, this figure was more or less the same as November 2011 (20.8 percent), but lower than the 26.3 percent we tracked in October. Apparel cataloguers Peter Hahn, Outdoor Look and John Banks chose to use this promotion in their November mailings.
A lower than average number of cataloguers promised a free gift with purchase last month—just 7 percent of catalogues. Often a freebie was teamed up with another offer, like in the case of Charles Tyrwhitt, which offered a free silk tie and a saving of £50 on shirts. Or Red House, which gave customers who spent £25 or more a free Gruffalo family calendar and free delivery on their order.
With more and more multichannel retailers reaching out to customers via catalogues at Christmas, is the print medium right for every business? Boden’s Julian Granville believes so. If he was starting from scratch, he told delegates at ECMOD, he would predominantly be an online business—but, he stressed, it will be a “stronger business if it has a paper tool to drive sales... Catalogues are here to stay”. Something to think about in your 2013 planning.--MT
We’ll be back with the December Catalogue Log in January, featuring a stats and insight roundup of 2012. To have your catalogue featured in our 2013 analysis, send your catalogues to:
The Catalogue Log
c/o Direct Commerce
First Floor Offices
155 High Street
Devon, EX34 9EZ