Research Says Consumers Still Love Reading Through Catalogs

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Although you might do a majority of your shopping online, you have probably noticed that retailers are continuing to flood your real-life mailbox with catalogs upon catalogs. You don't even have to be a customer at any of these stores and yet, you somehow still end up on their mailing list (yes, I'm looking at you Restoration Hardware). And while you might find them useless and a waste of time and paper, research says it's not going to stop anytime soon. In fact, people actually really like getting catalogs. According to NPR, approximately 11.9 billion catalogs were mailed to addresses around the United States last year, even though it's been 7 years since the peak of shopping catalogs.

Bruce Cohen, a retail private equity strategist, said, "Consumers really still love looking at catalogs." And there are a handful of people who NPR spoke to that can back up his claim. They interviewed Mary Winter, a Binghamton, N.Y resident, who said, "I typically go online and order them and order whatever I'm getting or go into the store because it's a little faster, but I still get my ideas from the catalogs." Another woman, who has been a U.S. Postal worker for 28 years says she'll even take the catalogs people toss out after she delivers them and will bring them home to read "for hours."

On the flip side, retailers are saying that it isn't just for order purposes — they're sending out catalogs so their customers can enjoy it the way they would a magazine. "We look at them less as tools and more as magazines for our customers," Felix Carbullido, chief marketing officer at Williams-Sonoma, told NPR. "They've become more editorial. They've become more of a sourcebook of ideas."

Let me put it this way: it's like a physical Pinterest board curated by retailers, not just to get you to buy their products, but to give you inspiration as to how you should style pieces or how you should design your home. And if you think about it in that perspective, the future of catalogs will forever be bright.

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