No need to lament over Littlewoods

Jo Francis
Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Littlewoods has canned its catalogue. So what, says Jo Francis.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Littlewoods catalogue.

Thinking about it, it was probably (gulp) sometime in the 1970s.

I can, though, remember the last time I saw a catalogue from the following: The White Company, Feather & Black, Sweaty Betty, BAM, This Works, Hush, Abel & Cole, and Next – because they’ve all hit my doormat in recent weeks.

What’s more, last weekend’s paper came complete with a 40pp mini catalogue for, of all things, Lidl’s Wine Cellar and a 48pp summer technology special from John Lewis. The weekend reading prior to that contained a clever M&S ‘Great British Summer’ 16pp promo.

Rather than a ‘big book’ catalogue, the clear trend is towards smaller, more timely, and more frequent publications that are effective in the flick-to-click push driving consumers to purchase online, as well as in-store.  

That said, I read an interesting quote from Home Retail Group and Argos boss John Walden the other day, notable as perhaps the last bastion of the big book. In autumn 2012 he unveiled a five-year plan to become a digital-led retailer, halving the number of printed catalogues produced in the process.

A months ago he told City AM that customers were more attached to paper catalogues than he’d expected, and were not embracing in-store iPads in quite the way that had been envisaged.

“I am surprised...I would have expected [demand for] the catalogue to have dropped off faster, but I’m happy to see them still in use because its something Argos is known for uniquely,” he told the newspaper.

Funnily enough, I'm not surprised. The very same edition of City AM also carried a story about Next sales being boosted due to the early release of its ‘new in’ brochure. ‘New in’ involves four additional catalogues to support Next’s own big books.

So while Littlewoods’ decision to can its catalogue has generated plenty of headlines because of what the brand used to be in its heyday, it’s clear to me that catalogues, shopping habits – and indeed the use of print – have moved on somewhat. Even if Littlewoods hasn’t.



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