Blog: A new season for catalogs is proving quite remarkable

Say what you will about the current struggles with the US Postal Service, but our local mailman is carrying more than his weight these days as we dance through the holiday season.

To this day, the stack of O’Mara Farm catalogs stands 8 inches high. Unfortunately, this tower of paper could have been a few inches longer if I hadn’t emptied several handfuls of catalogs into the recycling bin before performing the current experiment.

In today’s digital age, I have to say it’s been nice to see the shiny, printed and sometimes quirky mix of catalogs mixed in with regular mail. Holidays always bring out nostalgia, and catalogs reminded me of days—weeks! — spent flipping through mountain-sized Sears and JC Penney catalogs. They were still there, creatively segmented by category for easy shopping.

In November, the holiday edition would land with a thud and linger for my brothers and I to browse building our wish lists. We kept coming back to these pages, perfecting our letters to the man from the North Pole.

Sears put the kibosh on its Christmas Wish Book after the 2011 edition. In 2017, the iconic book returned in print and digital versions; however, it was a short-lived reappearance due to Sears’ financial difficulties.

And, while the Wish Book didn’t find its way into my mailbox, myriad other brands did. Crate & Barrel, RH, At West Elm, Uncommon Goods, The Grommet, Nordstrom and LL Bean are some of the ones I browsed. Also, a few newcomers showed up.

Brands like Olive & Cocoa, Carbon2Cobalt, Made In and Sundance have arrived. Although not all home furnishings are targeted, each contains snippets of furniture or decorative accessories.

Why the change? As the Internet and e-commerce began their ascent, print catalogs began to decline. Today, it seems brand marketers are reverting to more traditional ways of targeting and acquiring consumers.

The cost of digital advertising has continued to rise, leaving businesses looking for ways to expand their means of capturing consumer attention and money. Not only are brands building their omnichannel strategy, but they’re also going beyond digital marketing to connect.

Bring the flood of catalogs.

Even digital-native brands like Amazon have moved into mail order. The online retailer launched its toy catalog in 2018. Smart retailers seek to pollinate online media, social media and direct mail to compete and better connect with their target customer despite printing and mailing expenses catalogs.

It’s hard to argue with the strength of a beautifully designed catalog. Unlike a quickly deleted marketing email, catalogs persist in homes, increasing awareness for savvy brands. Who doesn’t love looking at a well-appointed room for interior design inspiration? This inspiration then sends consumers online to learn more, find additional products, add them to cart, and view credit card numbers.

A well-designed catalog gives online retailers the ability to bring the product to life and bring it to the consumer. This is a dream book filled with inspiration for creating a beautiful home.

For me, keep those maps and catalogs coming. They remind me of simpler times and offer a quick opportunity to turn the page for some refreshing inspiration.