While it may be true that less than two percent of catalogs result in a sale, that’s plenty good enough. It seems that “glossy catalog pages still entice buyers in a way that computer images don’t … Among retailers who rely mainly on direct sales, 62 percent say their biggest revenue generator is a paper catalog,” according to the Direct Marketing Association.
The U.S. Postal Service, which has a pretty big dog in this game, says it’s done a study showing “that consumers who received catalogs from a retailer spent 28 percent more on that retailer’s Web site than those who didn’t get a catalog.” And it’s a lot of catalogs: “More than 17 billion catalogs were mailed in the U.S. last year — about 56 for every American.” Which is a lot of paper: “In the U.S., catalogs account for three percent of the roughly 80 million tons of paper products used annually,” according to RISI Inc.
This, of course, upsets environmentalists. That, in turn, upsets the Postal Service, which says that all those catalogs subsidize the price of a first-class stamp. A Postal Service spokesman also says that trees are grown specifically for paper, making them “renewable resources.” Recycling isn’t a great option because the thin, glossy paper favored for catalogs is “difficult to make from recycled fibers.” But as far as Steve Fuller, CMO of L.L. Bean is concerned, “There will be some paper version for as long as I’m in business.”