Review of 2017 for Catalogers

by Stephen Lett


For the more mature catalog companies with a modest digital marketing program, approximately 86% of their sales matched to a print catalog. The remaining 14% were generated from digital marketing programs and did not match to a catalog. Mature catalog companies with a more robust digital marketing program matched 52% to the catalog; 48% to the web. This points out the importance of multi-channel marketing and the significant role of a print catalog in your marketing mix. In 2017 we saw a definite increase in page counts as catalogers aggressively took advantage of the postal piece weight increase of 4.0 ounces. Mailers wanted to maximize page count without increasing their postage costs; click here for more information about this.

Catalog companies were able to drive more business by adding more SKUs to their merchandise offering. Print quantities were all over the map last year. Several companies increased circulation, a few reduced their print quantities and most remained flat with the prior year. They drove more revenue from page count increases. Overall, our clients increased circulation on average. Our digital marketing programs mirrored many of the trends we witnessed on the catalog side. Traffic increased, orders increased, however the average order value was lower. This is a trend we saw across verticals. This is partly the result of increased ecommerce competition, most notably Amazon and the impact of free 2-day shipping for Prime members. Customers are growing more accustomed to the seemingly instant gratification of small orders with free shipping delivered almost instantaneously.

National disasters took their toll in a multitude of ways including “direct” businesses. Hurricanes, i.e., Harvey, Irma, Maria, etc., ravaged various parts of the country. Storm Harvey was the costliest disaster in U.S. History. We suppressed over 100 Zip Codes for this storm alone. Sales were definitely affected, and catalogs could not be delivered to many Zip Code areas. Overall, 2017 was a good year for catalog and multi-channel companies. Consumer confidence is solid, interest rates remain low and the economy is strong. We look forward to positive performance again in 2018.

___________________________________________________________________________ Stephen R. Lett is the President of Lett Direct, Inc., and a catalog consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, forecasting, analysis and digital marketing since 1995. Mr. Lett spent the first 25 years of his career with leading catalog companies; both business-to-business and consumer. He is the author of a book, Strategic Catalog Marketing.  He can be reached at 302-539-7257 or by e-mail at