First published in 1951, the Ikea catalog was originally distributed to 285,000 households in southern Sweden. At its peak in 2016, more than 200 million copies of the catalog were printed annually. (This is more than double the number of Bibles that were printed in the same period.) They reached more than 50 countries with 69 versions in 32 languages.
But just 4 short years later, Ikea was only printing 40 million copies. What happened?
When announcing the company's decision to stop publishing catalogs, communications executives said that people aren't using the catalog the way they used to. They cited Ikea's 45% online sales growth in 2020 and record numbers of website visits during the pandemic.
This is potentially the right decision for Ikea and other retailers that follow a lower price point. Yet many high-end retailers (and even online-only stores like Wayfair and Amazon) are actually getting into the catalog business. Nordstrom, Crate and Barrel, Patagonia, and Restoration Hardware (which mailed a 700-page monstrosity last year) are among the high-end retailers going all-in on catalogs.
Some companies are have reinvented their catalogs as creative pieces intended to inspire customers for "the long game." Instead of looking for immediate sales, they are developing these high-quality print products intended to be kept for months or even years.
The depiction of luxury, especially in a home setting, is aspirational for customers. They may keep catalogs for years while they dream about being able to establish such a opulent home. To underscore the extravagance of the products for sale, the paper type and finishing on these catalogs is also of the highest quality.
Not only are potential customers keeping these catalogs longer, but they are actually making purchases. Response rates from catalogs have risen 170% over the last decade. A Harvard study has shown that repeat business from customers who receive catalogs is 15% higher than those who only receive emails from the same company. The ROI on that 15% of higher sales more than pays for the catalog campaign.
Ask your account manager about our production and mailing capabilities and how we can produce high-quality, versioned catalogs for your high-end retail business!