The Catalog Complex

RHardware_boat_anchorI once complained about the growing stack of catalogs in my house and, in particular, the Restoration Hardware Bible (pictured here). Those mailing lists are shared, and suddenly you’ve got catalogs from places you never shop like Land of Nod and Frontgate. They aren’t just arriving monthly either. You’ve got seasonal catalogs, too. Sometimes I’ll notice a Winter Issue, December Issue, and Holiday Issue from the same retailer.

My friend Kevin Kosar once told me catalogs are what keeps the Postal Service around—without them, the USPS would be in even worse shape. And a recent article in the Wall Street Journal explains why these catalogs are here to stay:

Today, the catalog is bait for customers, like a store window display, and a source of inspiration, the way roaming through store aisles can be. The hope is shoppers will mark pages they like and then head online, or into a store, to buy.

Last year, 11.9 billion catalogs were mailed out, WSJ reports—and that’s still below the 2007 mark of 19.6 billion! Shouldn’t environmentalists find this alarming? If only I could draw their attention away from those L.L. Bean catalogs.

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