Judging the strength of the printed catalog market segment used to be a straight-forward proposition. Catalogers merely had to compare the total dollar value of orders placed with the cost of producing and distributing their print programs in order to determine the financial return.

The rise of online shopping is beginning to skew this traditional benchmark. If a shopper initially selects items by perusing a printed catalog, but actually executes the order via a Website and online catalog, which medium gets credit for the sale? Should each get partial credit?

Top 10 — Catalog Printers
  Company Segment
1 Quebecor World
$1,071 $6,300
2 Quad/Graphics
Pewaukee, WI
$954 $1,800
3 R.R. Donnelley
*$794 $5,298
4 Banta Corp.
Menasha, WI
$218 $1,457
5 Arandell Corp.
Menomonee Falls, WI
$213 $231
6 Perry Judd’s
Waterloo, WI
$102 $321
7 Spencer Press
Wells, ME
$73 $82
8 Brown Printing
Waseca, MN
$72 $380
8 Trend Offset
Los Alamitos, CA
$72 $182
10 The Dingley Press
Lisbon, ME
$69 $73
Sales figures are based on above printers’
self-reported total and market segment breakdowns.
* R.R. Donnelley’s figure for this market segment also includes ad inserts.

Catalog printers clearly have a vested interest in how this relationship evolves. Current thinking holds that catalog orders typically still originate with a printed reference, but the pressure to defend this view quantitatively will only increase over time. It’s still too early to tell if growing experience and comfort with online shopping will wean buyers away from thumbing through the printed catalog first.

The Direct Marketing Association (The DMA) in New York City does some tracking of this trend. According to its 2001 catalog report (the 2002 update was still in process), the percentage of catalogers’ net sales derived from print programs has dropped to 68 percent, down from 80 percent the prior year.

Over the same period, the percentage of sales coming from the Internet reportedly climbed to 13 percent, up from two percent in 2000. The DMA report does go on to note that increases in printed catalog circulations did help drive the growth in sales via the Internet. Over the next four years, it is forecasting catalog sales to climb from $126 billion this year to more than $163 billion by 2006.

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