Is it the ‘death’ of catalogues?

Is it the ‘death’ of cataloguesCatalogues have been around for many years, especially in the retail sector, but with the abundant use of the World Wide Web has the “traditional catalogue” come to an end? Are we more eager or willing to rely on the ever increasing and more accessible use and interest of the digital world?

With so many companies relying on websites such as Lasoo, CatalogueCentral, Catalogues4u and the like to push their digital marketing it seems as though we’re cutting corners to save print and distribution costs but some ponder the inevitable questions as to if these are more effective and successful than the tangible junk mail we receive on a weekly basis.

Many find it irresistible gazing through the copious amounts of catalogues they receive, many show their disgust with insistent ‘No Junk Mail’ signs – so how do we reach the willing readers as opposed to the ‘complainers’ who deem this a nuisance? PMP, Australia’s largest print and distribution company of catalogues, magazines and marketing materials, believe that that catalogues are still alive and working and that there is, and will always be, a market for those who crave the retail mail they receive in their letterboxes.

According to Roy Morgan Research (March, 2010) at least 73% of Australians and 79% of women have read catalogues in the last 4 weeks and nearly 60% of readers respond and take further action after reading. Catalogues are by far the single most useful media when purchasing anything from groceries to large kitchen and laundry appliances according to the Australian public. A recent study by Roy Morgan Research investigated that 55% of grocery buying, 50% of Children’s wear purchases and 50% of toy buyers, purchase due to reading a catalogue, more than 3 times that of viewing the internet and nearly 10 times from newspapers and television. Catalogues continue to be the single most useful medium above all others when purchasing Home Entertainment, and Electronics, CD’s and DVD’s, Books, Home Interiors or Furnishings. It is also a strong support with the interest for Mobile Phones, Computers, Car and Auto parts and Home Improvements.

PMP have released statistics which indicate 90% of Australian households have catalogues delivered, 74% are aware that these are being delivered and of those, half actually read it, a total of 37% overall. Therefore around 60% who read delivered catalogues actually take action – that in itself proves that such a medium is not dead, yet having an impact on purchasing behaviours.

On the flip side it’s evident some media is costing companies more than it generates in revenue. We have seen in recent times print media has taken a slump, take for example The Age, it was only a few days ago Fairfax Media announced the proposed cutting of 1900 staff and will begin charging for content on the websites of its two main metro newspapers as the company adjusts to shrinking advertising revenue. Fairfax will also shift to compact-sized versions for these two newspapers, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, from early next year. The size of the broadsheet papers will shrink to the tabloid format. The unfortunate job cuts will come over three years and generate annual savings of $235 million by 2015, of that $215 million will be achieved by June 2014 – so with huge savings over years why wouldn’t publications take the easy shift to digital media?

The Pro’s and Con’s of print media
There are many pro’s and con’s for print media and companies need to decipher which out ways the other when considering print vs digital.

  • You can easily target your desired market.
  • Print media can have a loyal readership.
  • ‘Shelf life’ of catalogues can be lengthy.
  • It’s free for the reader (excl mainstream newspapers)


  • Poorer quality: Advertisers who use print medium risk poorer quality of ads
  • Expensive: The cost of design, print and distribution can be extremely expensive
  • Declining readers: A decline in readers has occurred as more people rely heavily on the internet, which is easily accessible due to iPhones, iPads and working behind a computer etc.
  • This medium may not always give you a wide reach. Internet, on the other hand, can target a wider audience.
  • You may have to plan months in advance to advertise in print media. It does not offer you flexibility when you are faced with a tight deadline.

In conclusion I do believe, in time, print media will be inexistent but it’s safe to say this won’t be happening anytime soon. There is, and will always remain, a market for those who prefer print as opposed to digital.