E-Retail’s Secret Weapon: Print Catalogs

Rumors of catalogs’ death have been greatly exaggerated.

CNBC’s Margaret Brennan reports that printed catalogs are sticky.

And Scott Silverman agrees, the executive director of e-commerce retailers' association Shop.org, told “Power Lunch” that brick retailers with a strong online presence are spending more on catalogs than ever before, as the new-and-old economy combination wins over consumers.

Two prominent New York City retailers reinforced that view: Michael Gould, chairman and CEO of Federated Department Stores-owned Bloomingdale’s chain, said multi-channel shoppers – i.e., consumers browsing and buying via various media and outlets – are six times more likely to make purchases than single-channel shoppers. Brennan noted that Edward Schmults, the CEO of FAO Schwarz, told her that 40% of the posh toyshop’s sales are online – and he’s planning on issuing a paper catalog to support the privately-owned firm's Web presence.

That’s a cost-effective strategy that makes sense for real and virtual stores alike: Brennan pointed to a study by the Direct Marketing Association, which compared estimated 2006 catalog expenditures of $20 billion leading to a sales payoff of $144.2 billion, with TV ad expenditures of $21.7 billion reaping sales of $150.8 billion.