The news the other week that Argos has dramatically scaled back the print run of its catalogue got me thinking about the relevance of the tomes in this hard-wired, fast and furious fashion world.
Calling time on producing so many of the general store’s “laminated book of dreams”, as Bill Bailey named it, is a brave move for Argos considering how synonymous the catalogue is with its brand. But should it also be the death knell for fashion catalogues?
Some companies have built their whole businesses around catalogues. Littlewoods, Toast and Boden have gathered a decent customer base on the back of their books – there’s something more sedate and soothing about hearing the seasonal thud on the doormat, the crack of the spine, the smell of the saturated, shiny paper and thumbing casually through page after page of well-priced clothing. Avoiding the significance of the lingerie pages in any young man’s life – no, just me? – the nostalgia associated with these catalogues has even gone so far as to inspire a Littlewoods advertising campaign with Colleen Rooney.
But sometimes nostalgia has to be left in the past. Next, despite its hefty and highly profitable Directory, is not defined by its catalogue in the way perhaps Argos, Littlewoods et al are. Its thriving bricks-and-mortar presence and huge web business complement a significant catalogue offering to complete its multichannel experience. And this is where all roads must lead. Argos is to concentrate more on its ecommerce and, while I acknowledge Toast, Boden and Littlewoods all sell online to a degree, isn’t the catalogue’s time coming to an end?
It’s a clunky format and doesn’t do products any favours in terms of communicating cut, fabric or quality. Plus it’s a very uneconomical way of targeting customers. Radical thinking it is not, but for those still going down this route, surely it’s time to catalogue off for good and log on instead.