Australian Catalogue Association chief executive Ken Bishop, AIW chief executive Paul Ward and Franklin Web director Phil Taylor have talked up catalogues following a report in The Age that colour catalogues were "the medium with the highest level of influence on shopper purchases".
Bishop said they had "a staggering reach" as they made it into up to 6.5 million letterboxes twice per week.
"Catalogues are still a really effective people-mover. They still encourage people to go to a store and visit a website to do some research before they make a purchase," he said.
Taylor said some Australian retailers had told him that about a third of their sales were driven by catalogues – and that they could get a 40% jump in sales when one went out.
Retailers may be struggling, but they can't afford not to invest in catalogue advertising, he added.
Bishop said he wasn't worried about a decline in catalogues as research showed they continued to remain effective. However, Ward was more cautious.
"I think it will plateau at some stage, but whether it declines I'm not sure. The trouble is we don't know what's around the corner with the online space because it moves so quickly."
All three men told ProPrint that catalogues needed to keep up with the times to remain relevant.
Catalogues have evolved by moving online, adding QR codes and altering their appearance by changing stocks, sizes and finishing, said Bishop.
Taylor predicted they would become more interactive – people would read their catalogues and then use their iPhones and iPads to make purchases.
"Catalogues will bring the shopfront to the kitchen table," he said.
Ward said the future of catalogues depended on "[making] them work as hard as we can for the retailer".
One way to do that would be to monitor consumer preferences in order to make the marketing more targeted. He said that was something AIW Printing was working on, but didn't want to go into detail.
Ward said although it was impossible to predict the future, he was reassured that all the retailers he had spoken to remained committed to catalogues.
"While there are people happy to receive them in the mail and read them they're not going to away quickly."
The 21st annual Australia Catalogue Association awards will be held on 10 August.
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