by Susannah Patton

The Effects of E-Business on Catalog Sales

Sep 15, 20012 mins
BPM Systems

In 1996, at the dawn of the e-commerce era, the mood among catalog publishers was glum. The Internet, it seemed, would deal a devastating blow to traditional catalogs, household fixtures since America’s colonial era. Paper, it appeared, was getting tossed.

Five years later, publishing companies report that the Internet has actually increased the number of catalogs, inserts and mailers printed. “The early forecasters predicted that the Internet would reduce volume,” says Steven Zuccarini, president of the Merchandise Media Group at R.R. Donnelley & Sons, the Chicago-based printer of consumer catalogs. “In the end, however, we’ve seen the Internet drive more printing opportunities because catalogues are complementary to the overall business.”

For example, R.R. Donnelley customers, such as Fingerhut, J.Crew, Lands’ End and Spiegel, are using catalogs and other sorts of direct mailing to promote their Web presence. And even online retailers, such as and RedEnvelope, are now printing paper catalogs to generate sales and to boost the public’s awareness of their brands, Zuccarini says. “Successful retailers are using a multichannel approach so their customers can choose how and when to shop,” he adds, noting that his division is expected to report revenues of more than $1 billion this year.

Overall, catalog industry revenues are projected to hit $121.4 billion in 2001 and reach an estimated $155.4 billion in 2005, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2000 report “Economic Impact: U.S. Direct & Interactive Marketing Today.”

So much for the paperless society.