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CATALOGUES: Going by the book

The multi-channel environment is often seen as the death knell of printed catalogues, but this hardy medium refuses to die and continues to play an important role in the marketing mix. They are highly portable, often easier to access than a website, can be passed around among colleagues and can have real longevity when stored as reference guides.

According to Caroline Saich, general manager at Synergy Partnership, which organises the European Catalogue & Mail Order Days (ECMOD) event, the most prolific users of catalogues in B2B are in the office supplies, furniture and equipment sectors. “Industrial health, safety and security also account for a lot of catalogue mailings, while computing, communications, warehouse, materials handling and packaging figure highly as well,” she says. Alex Walsh, head of postal affairs at the DMA, adds, “There is now a big market for catalogues among small companies or self-employed people where the option of next-day delivery is more convenient going to a local trade outlet.”

The basic principle of the paper-based catalogue has not changed much since the year 1744 when Benjamin Franklin produced the world's first catalogue to sell scientific and academic books. Through this simple idea the size, shape and appearance of the catalogue, and the numbers mailed are capable of almost limitless tailoring to fit the target audience. The Screwfix catalogue, for example, which sells trade tools and accessories, has historically been A5 because it fits easily into a toolbox or glove compartment.