The Catalogs Keep Coming

You’d think that online shopping would have eliminated our need for catalogs, but according to the New Yorker, Americans receive nearly 12 billion catalogs a year — the worst of which is from Restoration Hardware, which has the door-stopping weight of 17 pounds and the ire of UPS delivery people. Most of the catalogs end up in the recycling bin, and are considered a waste of energy and resources:

Marketers say that people who browse catalogues buy more than those who shop only online. The U.S. Postal Service works hard to promote catalogues, which have become an increasingly important segment of U.S.P.S. business as people mail fewer first-class letters. The online retailer Bonobos, which began shipping catalogues last year, told the Wall Street Journal that twenty per cent of its new Web customers placed orders after receiving their first mailings, and spent more than other new shoppers.

Those incremental sales are accompanied by enormous waste. Industry surveys from groups like the Direct Marketing Association estimate that catalogues get average response rates of four to five per cent. In the case of Restoration Hardware, that means that for every sixty thousand pages mailed, approximately three thousand pay off.

It’s not like we’re even asking for them. I receive catalogs from Crate and Barrel and J. Crew even though I’ve never requested them. They were likely sent to me because I’ve ordered things from those stories online, but especially with a store like Crate and Barrel or Restoration Hardware, how often am I in the market for home goods (answer: I haven’t bought anything from Crate and Barrel in more than a year). I’ve even signed up for programs that were suppose to eliminate junk mail like credit card offers, but they keep coming. Perhaps there are people out there who find the catalogs helpful (perhaps that person is you!) but I am not one of them.

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