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Thursday, 29 January 2015 | By Louis Gordon


By Louis Gordon, Marcom Manager, Landa Digital Printing

“The future of retailing is omnichannel and it includes catalogs,” asserts The Kurt Salmon Review*. In simplest terms, “omnichannel” retailing treats consumers to a uniform, integrated, seamless experience wherever they shop – in store, online, in print, or by phone.

Furthermore, to those who've declared that the catalog is on its deathbed, research says otherwise. But it has certainly changed … and dramatically. Hold that thought. First, let’s review the vital signs of the catalog industry.

Catalog Print Production by the Numbers

As a component of the General Commercial Printing industry, catalogs represent a $US39 billion segment globally. The number of catalogs distributed has fallen – in the US, for example, to 11.8 billion units in 2013 compared to 19.6 billion in 2017* according to the Direct Marketing Association.

Ironically, while consumers will say they want to receive fewer catalogs by mail, an estimated 58% of online shoppers refer to print catalogs for product suggestions. About 45% of women shoppers in the 18 to 30 year old age range – i.e., a key demographic for retailers – agree that catalogs motivate purchase interest.

Some retailers have discovered that as much as three quarters of their buyers have initially located their preferred item(s) in a printed catalog. Land’s End, which in 2000 suffered deep sales declines when it made drastic cuts to its catalog production, later found that customers would spend more money when shopping with a catalog in hand.

Turning the Page

Traditional retailers are in a very public battle with online giants, notably Amazon, Alibaba, Overstock, eBay and others that don’t offer printed catalogs. Some omnichannel retailers have responded by testing ways to increase a catalog’s value to customers and ultimately its contribution to revenue.

Williams-Sonoma, for one, revised its catalog format, tinkering with width and weight to help lower production costs – and experienced no loss of sales. Interestingly, Williams-Sonoma also increased the numbers of pages in its catalogs while displaying fewer products. The retailer added more compelling content to each product, such as longer descriptions, recipes, and other relevant information, and saw its direct sales rise 12% over a four-year period.

After extensive testing and research, FAO Schwarz discontinued its spring catalog, directing its production costs exclusively on its holiday season catalog and shorter “teaser” catalogs during the year. The toy retailer has saved considerable expense without a loss in revenue.

The Power of the Omnichannel Shopper

Research conducted by The Kurt Salmon Review shows that the highest spending customers are those who use both the Web and a catalog for reference. Web-only shoppers spent about 6% less versus those placing orders into call centers using a catalog.

The Kurt Salmon Review:

The study revealed that customers using both buying channels over one fiscal year spent an average of $92 per order compared to $80 for online-only orders. (It’s also true that many shoppers prefer the experience of speaking to an actual human being vs. conducting a transaction solely online.)

The aggregate power of the omnichannel shopper also proved true for Nordstrom. After spending $1 million to test channel mixes and revamping its 60-million circulation catalog operation, the high-end fashion retailer experienced a 23% increase in net revenue.

The Role of Digital Print in Catalog Production

The list of “neo-traditional” retailers adapting to the new shopping paradigm continues to grow. So what does the upheaval in retail catalogs mean to digital print providers? Clearly, omnichannel retailers – i.e., combination brick-and-mortar and online operations – still hold catalogs in high regard as revenue generators.

To identify the right balance of cost vs. revenue, retailers are continue to tweak catalog formats – testing page lengths, dimensions, quantity, timing, and content. In the process, they’re also generating vast reams of data from their catalog research and burrowing into analytics to determine what works best.

The Landa S10 Nanographic Printing® Press and Catalog Printing

Testing new print production models, analyzing data, retesting new catalogs – doesn't that seem like the sweet spot for a digital print provider? It’s a rhetorical question, of course it does.

Landa S10 Nanographic Printing Press

Landa S10 Nanographic Printing® Press – the first digital device
designed for mainstream printing

The Landa S10 Nanographic Printing® Press is a robust solution for the new era of printing retail catalogs. It’s the only digital solution supporting B1 (41 in. / 1,050 mm) media and all off-the-shelf substrates. Alone among digital devices, the press operates side-by-side with conventional print equipment – no special environments needed.

Shopping for a new print solution to serve catalogers? You may want to put the Landa S10 Nanographic Printing Press – the first digital device designed for mainstream printing – at the top of your list.

*“Is the Catalog Dead?” November 2013,
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Landa S10 - Printing Press