Don’t close the book on catalogues yet

The promotional gift catalogue is a stable part of many distributors marketing campaign, but with the growth in digital spend, Gordon Glenister investigates the impact on catalogue usage.

With an industry value approaching £1bn, conservative estimates suggest that over £600m is managed within the catalogue groups. At least 300,000 catalogues have been sent out through the major catalogue groups.

Many distributors belong to catalogue groups. Karen Paver, director of Promotional Union, reports a decline in demand from last year. Karen says most of her members will send out over a six month period after the catalogue is launched in September. Most companies tend to use generic covers but then brand their own inside pages. Promotional Union tends to promote Best Sellers by icons, and highlight those which are available for express delivery.

The Advantage Catalogue Group, run by Lawrence Angelow, has seen an 18% growth in numbers. Lawrence maintains great imagery and
a leisurely browse are the key to success. “The annual Best Catalogue Cover award has been a great addition to the bpma Conference in July, where members get to vote for each other’s covers.”

The Page Catalogue Group has seen numbers slightly rise, says director Brian Hayward. “Distribution of catalogues has always been a major expense. It’s still very expensive, but the amount of distributors taking advantage of fulfilment agencies has massively increased. An agency offered our members an average postage charge of 84p per catalogue, which is not bad compared with the standard stamps of £1.90 for 2nd class.”

“The better distributors promote themselves as being expert professionals with the expectation that people buy from people.  All distributors focus on their key relationships, providing their contact with a service level which meets or hopefully exceeds their expectation. Generally the more contact you have the better to chance of you having a closer relationship. A catalogue provides another excuse to talk to them with a point of reference that hopefully stays with your customer for months.”

“The Ignite Group run by Richard Pettinger, is the only group with a hardback book as a catalogue. The numbers have remained static, although one member who regularly ordered 500 jumped this year to 4,000 as he was doing an annual mailing.

Richard gives members the chance to have the last six end pages branded as well as bespoke pantone matched envelopes for mailings. Making the product stand out is very important and we always try and get lifestyle shots.”

So, why is a catalogue still so important? Richard says: “A good catalogue gives credibility to the distributor. Nowadays anyone can rig up a website cheaply, linking to supplier sites at very little cost. If an end user sees a really good catalogue with an effective personalised cover and all the end pages used, this gives a very professional image.”

“If a distributor is visiting an end user, which is starting to happen more, the catalogue is a perfect introduction and a lasting memory after they leave. Who remembers a reference to a website? A moment’s viewing and it’s gone, while the catalogue will still be there tomorrow, the next day, next month and even year. Our hardback version gets retained for many years.”

The Encore Group has seen its catalogue numbers grow considerably over the last year and, Diane Jaggard suggests less than 10% of members go with the bespoke option. “We are finding a professional, friendly, responsive customer service is appreciated and prices being held for the life of a catalogue is essential. A broad range of products from ‘A’ list suppliers gives balance and variation to the catalogue is what our members like,” she adds.

Laltex mail out huge quantities and despite product director Neil Horner maintaining customers tell him they are sending out less often, the numbers tell a different story. “The larger runs for customers tend to be for mass mailings, whilst smaller requests are for ad hoc usage. Most customers just ask for a logo on the front, while the larger distributors are a little more creative with the design. Stand out is often driven by great photography linked with well-laid-out design, showing colour options. The key is not to cram too much onto a page.”

Leading distributor Lesmar sent out 7,000 catalogues during 2015, which was a similar number to the year before. Managing director Mike Oxley, says most are given away at shows, events and customer mailings. Lesmar “always sends out gifts with mailings and a very personalised letter, certainly not a compliment slip. By remaining on people’s desks it’s a constant reminder, and being tactile it’s so much more helpful than the internet.”

The Sourcing Team use catalogues sparingly, “and only when it’s relevant to a specific client, sometimes they want a fl ip catalogue. We always send a gift,” says Becky Fleury. “Sometimes we will run an incentive linked to the catalogue.”

Fluid Branding has seen its catalogue usage growth largely driven by acquisition and growth. Currently, around 2,000 a year are mailed at the launch to all existing clients, with some left for requests. Marketing manager Gemma Richards, says: “Catalogues are still popular with our clients. We encourage people to grab a cuppa and have a browse, encouraging a more relaxing and pleasurable experience. The catalogue is also a great opportunity for us to reflect our brand identity and reinforce our online presence.”

Ad Merchandise sends 1000 Envoy catalogues and over 500 from Prime Time. David Moodie, director, says: “We cut down to 400 last year and ran out, so we ordered more this year.” The company has built a contact campaign around the new catalogue coming in and adds bpma research to give more reasons to buy promotional merchandise. They too send gifts out with catalogues

Why catalogues work

  • Buyers who receive a catalogue spend more, buy more frequently and stay customers longer, Royal Mail Tracker research shows
  • A study by Internet Retailer in the US showed that those who received a catalogue spent 163% more than those that didn’t
  • Even the digital generation like catalogues – Royal Mail figures show that 56% of under 35s are likely  to buy from catalogues, compared with 50% of the population as a whole.
  • One thing that a catalogue can do, that nothing else can is sell you things that you never knew existed and introduce you to brands you’ve never heard of. It overcomes the weakness of the web that you can’t search for something if you don’t know it exists.

Source: Ian Simpson, managing director, Catalogues 4 Business

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