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J.C. Penney to Quit Catalogs

By Adam Dewitz
Published: September 27, 2010

J.C. Penney continues its shift to electronic media with plans to quit its traditional catalog business in favor of e-commerce and retail store sales. This announcement comes the company discontinued its “Big Book” catalogs last Fall.

The Dallas Morning News reports that J.C. Penney has notified suppliers that it will stop publishing its remaining dozen specialty catalogs next year.

J.C. Penney recently reported in its 2nd Quarterly Earnings (PDF) that dropping the “Big Book” hurt sales more than the company expected, “Comparable store sales for the quarter increased 0.9 percent over last year while total sales were about flat, decreasing 0.1 percent, when compared to last year’s second quarter. Total sales for the quarter were negatively impacted by approximately 160 basis points due to the discontinuation of the Company’s Big Book catalogs this year.”

J.C. Penney will continue to use print to drive customers to its online store with category-targeted “Look Books” which contain less merchandise and have no item numbers or pricing details.

Chairman and CEO Myron "Mike" Ullman told investors at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference, "We're not getting out of the print business. ... We're transitioning from the catalog, which is essentially a static vehicle."

 

Discussion

By Howie Fenton on Sep 28, 2010

Of course dropping the big catalog hurt sales worse then expected! No one gives enough credit to printed catalogs. Unless you have seen, up close and personnel, some of the catalog success stories - you would not know how much success can be driven by catalogs.

I wrote a story about a color separator doing work for Victoria's Secret which is one of the most successful catalogs for women and I worked on a consulting assignment for Cabela’s which is one of the most successful catalogs for men. These two leading catalogs sell completely different products to different people but both show that that catalogs can play a pivotal role in a cross media marketing strategy. Both are successful but in very different ways. One drives purchases on the web and phone the other drives purchases via the web and through their retail stores. But both drive sales.

Like all forms of print production catalogs need to become an integrated part of the marketing mix. When catalogs are well coordinated with the web, emails and postcards they CAN retain their relevance and continue to provide value.

 

By Kate Dunn on Sep 28, 2010

Apparently JC Penny is not privy to the study that found that consumers who receive catalogs in the mail view 22 percent more pages on the retailer's website and spend 16 percent more money than those who don't receive a catalog.

A recent survey from I think Epsilon also found that the coveted age group of 18 - 34 prefers print to email. I don't think the study mentioned specific preferences for apparel shopping but JC Penny's current advertising campaign is definitely targeting this age group so perhaps they should rethink their strategy. The big book wasn't cost effective but they may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater by also abandoning their segment catalogs as well. Their plan for look books without detailed information may not work like the catalog does for just that reason. Without the detailed information the shopper may not be compelled to get on-line and order assuming it's too much or not really what they need.

 

By Drew on Sep 28, 2010

These companies going to internet only are losing a huge audience. I cannot take my computer into the bathroom! Sorry to be so blunt, but the fact is a great deal of catalog viewing is done in the bathroom.

 

By Linda on Oct 03, 2010

There are alot of people that does not have computers and they await for the catalogs. I rather got thru a catalog than get on the internet.

 

By doc on Oct 06, 2010

I work on the computer all day, and like getting away from it after a long day. Browsing the catalog with a cup of coffee is much more relaxing and more informative than shopping online. I have shopped less since no longer receiving the JC Penny catalogs.

 

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