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When Something Old Becomes Something New: Brands Harnessing The Benefits Of Print Catalogues

After airing our views on Ikea's mistake in discontinuing its beloved print marketing publication (affectionately known as its bookbook), we thought it only fair to celebrate some of the brands winning our hearts by harnessing the power of print catalogues in this digitally-dominated age.

From established retailers that have remained steadfast in print to those that have reintroduced physical catalogues to their marketing mix and new, disruptive brands using this ‘old school’ approach to make an impact, the love for catalogues remains strong.

Contrary to expectations, print catalogues haven’t faded into obscurity in the face of digital marketing's evolution. Instead, they’ve experienced somewhat of a resurgence, proving their relevance and effectiveness in modern, multi-channel marketing strategies.

Join us as we explore the continuous power of print catalogues, highlighting some of the brands harnessing the potential of this highly engaging medium and the benefits it brings to retailers and audiences alike.


Print catalogues have undergone a remarkable evolution, adapting to consumers' changing preferences and behaviours.

The early (and literal) heavyweights, such as Littlewoods, Grattan, and Freemans, opened the door to mail-order and home shopping in the UK way back in the 1930s. As their popularity grew, so too did the paginations, with hefty, product-filled directories thudding through people’s letterboxes.

This way of shopping remained popular in the decades that followed. It provided access to everything from fashion and home goods to holidays, with readers immersed in the pages, fuelled by aspiration and seduced by convenience.

In fact, it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when e-commerce significantly changed the retail landscape, providing an even more convenient way to shop, that catalogues experienced a downturn.

Where once the pages of a catalogue gave retailers the means to market hundreds or thousands of products, the internet had no limit. And so, we began to see (and grieve!) the shelving of iconic directories from the likes of Ikea, Argos, Next and Freemans.


Thankfully, though, not everyone believes quantity is better than quality. Over time, print-backing brands have adapted the format of the traditional catalogue to better suit their identity and fulfil consumers' changing needs.

So, rather than being solely transactional, 400-page product-listing whoppers, modern print catalogues have been transformed into sleek, targeted publications with brands leveraging online data to personalise offerings and tailor messaging to specific demographics.

Clothing and homeware brands Joe Browns, New Look, Hush, The White Company, Matalan and Me+Em are just some of the leading retailers that have remained loyal to print catalogues, recognising their value in forging meaningful connections by providing a tangible and engaging experience for audiences.

Others, like Boden, made the mistake of calling time on its physical catalogue before learning the true worth of print, with the high street retailer quickly reinstating its print catalogue in 2023 after seeing a decline in sales.

Then there are the brands doing something a little different, like luxury department store Selfridges, which has launched a 72-page shopping ‘magalogue’ cleverly called Yellow Pages. As a hybrid of a traditional magazine and a catalogue, it provides entertaining and inspiring editorials alongside its products to engage with its customers by delivering something extra. Something unique.

In a similar vein, emerging independent brands are curating print catalogues as a means to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, striking up more meaningful connections with a tangible representation of their brand story and products.

More surprisingly, online retail giant Amazon has started tapping into the power of print catalogues, with the brand producing a Christmas 2023 toy catalogue for its US market. Not only was this a clever way to reach and engage with its youngest audience, but it also evoked immense nostalgia among adults, making it all the more impactful.


So, why are these retailers continuing to reimagine classic brand publications as part of their modern marketing efforts? Allow us to spotlight the unique benefits of print catalogues:

Persons hands browsing catalogue
Picking up and reading a physical catalogue is an intentional act. It captures the reader's full attention and retains it longer than a fleeting digital ad, driving deeper engagement. Research by the likes of JICMAIL and Royal Mail has highlighted consumers’ increased engagement with print. From how long a print publication will stay in the home (think catalogues displayed on coffee tables or placed in magazine racks), how many times it will be revisited and the level of sales it will generate.
Furniture Catalogue
A recurring issue raised with print vs digital is the inability to change the content once produced. This is why we’ve seen the rise of sleek, personal catalogues in place of bulky generic publications. These can be data-driven print brochures featuring tailored content that reflects consumers’ online behaviours or content chosen by the consumers themselves. So, for example, our Print On Point proposition means brands can invite audiences to build their own finely-filtered catalogues or brochures online, featuring just what interests them, and then have it delivered to their door to browse at their leisure. Furthermore, advances in print technology enable smaller, more frequent print runs for more precise targeting, as well as quicker turnaround times and lower production costs.
Person scanning QR code in catalogue
Studies have also shown print catalogues to be highly effective marketing tools for driving significant traffic to retailers’ websites, converting to online sales. Therefore, in today’s digital world, old-school mail-order forms have been mainly replaced with mobile-friendly QR codes that help consumers effortlessly navigate online purchases. This also takes away the concern of print catalogues being inflexible/quickly outdated, particularly regarding prices. Take Amazon’s Christmas toy catalogue, for example; it didn’t include any prices, but instead, QR codes that led consumers directly to the website for the current price, availability, reviews, etc.
Person relaxing browsing catalogue
We’ve spoken before about how the limitless e-commerce world can cause choice overload or analysis paralysis. Too many options can make an audience feel indecisive, regret their purchases, or make no purchase at all. So, by delivering a thoughtfully curated edit of products in print catalogue form to consumers, brands remove the overwhelm and help facilitate more considered purchases, resulting in happier customers and fewer returns.
Person referencing catalogue in supermarket
Another string to the print-catalogue bow is its ability to build deeper consumer connections. Catalogues become fixtures in consumers' homes, offering a tangible reminder of the brand and fostering long-term loyalty. They also stand out in a digitally dominated world as being special, unique, novel, or nostalgic and are, therefore, given greater consumer attention. The ability for smaller print runs allows brands to ‘check in’ with consumers more often and personalise their offering, whether the content be geared around consumer behaviour or a seasonal event, like Christmas.
Printed catalogue pages
As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, print catalogues still provide a powerful tool for brands seeking to cut through the digital clutter and connect with consumers on a deeper level. They're a tangible expression of brand identity and an effective pathway to greater consumer engagement and lasting relationships.

It seems Selfridges, Boden, and Amazon have all realised this, so the question is, who’s next to introduce or relaunch a print catalogue…Next?!

Whether you’re part of the Next team or another savvy retailer looking to make a print catalogue part of your marketing mix, the production and distribution process couldn’t be simpler with an experienced print partner like us on your side. Simply phone 0114 272 8888 or email to discuss your ideas and ambitions with one of our dedicated print marketing experts.