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Thursday
May202010

The American Catalog Experience

Yes, many of us get too many of them (hey, that’s why we're here), but there’s no denying the important social and economic role that catalogs have played in American consumer culture over the years. The American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA), a trade group that works with Catalog Choice, recently summed up many of direct mail's significant social benefits in a document titled "The American Catalog Experience: Catalog Marketing’s Social Importance to American Consumers & Culture." Here’s a few select tidbits worth chewing on:

  • Catalog shopping is convenient and unconstrained by geography. You can shop 24/7 without dealing with traffic, parking, or closed stores. Catalogs define "universal access." Granted, one could argue that the internet does the same thing, but many of us enjoy leisurely flipping the glossy pages of our favorite catalogs.

  • Catalogs are the ultimate Un-Walmart experience. They represent the opposite of Big Box retail consolidation.  Catalogs and their websites offer an astounding assortment of niche and hard-to-find products that you just can't locate anywhere else.

  • Catalog marketing helps small businesses. Direct mail companies don't have to be located in urban America to thrive, thus creating jobs in rural regions of the country.

  • If you live in rural America too far from stores, catalog shopping provides a viable alternative. The same convenience rings true for the busy working moms, the elderly, or the disabled.

  • Now, before you start thinking that online shopping can completely replace catalog shopping, think again. The paper catalog is responsible for generating more than half of online sales for most companies that use the direct mail channel.

  • A growing number of catalog mailers are improving the catalog's environmental footprint by choosing recycled and FSC-certified paper (that stands for the Forest Stewardship Council, an international group that sets the "green" standard for forestry products).

  • And as Catalog Choice can confirm, most catalog companies are ethical marketers, honoring consumer mail preference choices.  While there are a handful of stubborn companies that make it difficult to get off their mailing list, overall, catalog mailers have demonstrated a sincere commitment to responsible mailing and privacy practices.


While some have predicted the demise of the printed catalog, this outcome has been exaggerated.  The Direct Mail industry has survived huge postal increases as well as the Great Recession and still continues to thrive.

As the steady growth of the formal participation in Catalog Choice shows, we are successfully working with the industry on self-regulation, consumer choice, and environmental standards.