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Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

Even very recently catalogues were seen as integral to the likes of Shop Direct, N. Brown and Argos – with millions of them distributed each year. But the acceleration of online sales has dramatically reduced these retailers’ reliance on paper-based catalogues over the past few years.

Such has been the extent of the internet’s impact on its customer base that Shop Direct has made the radical decision to stop producing its catalogues completely. The enormity of the shift in shopping patterns can be seen from the fact the group distributed a mere 300,000 catalogues during the last season compared with over five million just five years ago.

As much as 90% of its sales are now transacted online and of this 50% is via mobile devices, which would have been seen as highly unlikely only a few years back based on the older less affluent demographic that Shop Direct typically attracted.

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Thing of the past…

Admittedly Shop Direct does now attract a younger customer – through the likes of its Very brand – but what has markedly changed is that online purchasing is now done by all cross-sections of society and mobiles are ubiquitous across all demographics.

At N. Brown there has also been a dramatic shift by its customers to shop online, which has again been accelerating in recent years. Although it has not made the big move to curtail its catalogues, the numbers it distributes have been in rapid decline. There has also been a move to produce smaller, more frequent publications rather than the chunky twice-yearly big books of old.

It is probably inevitable that N. Brown will follow the lead of Shop Direct – and in a quicker time-frame than it presently imagines – and stops publishing any large catalogues.

Slightly going against the grain, Argos found that it had to re-introduce some catalogues into its digital stores to sit alongside the tablet devices that now feature prominently in these new look outlets.

This might be a case of certain types of customers feeling the need to have a bit of old school familiarity within these digitally-driven stores. But what is probably likely is that this will be short-lived and that Argos will find it ultimately also calls time on its main catalogues.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider

K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.