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23 . 11 . 20

Retailers return to traditional paper catalogues

Words by: Print Power
High street retailers and websites in the UK are returning to traditional catalogues and leaflets to grab the attention. Door drops and catalogues showed already during the first lockdown period to be extremely effective with shoppers stuck at home.
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With most stores closed and a large proportion of people working from home, many have more time to pick up the post and browse through catalogues.

As a result more catalogues are dropping on doormats this year as brands try to get an edge on competitors by going beyond digital ads and emails and putting beautifully photographed pictures of products directly in front of potential shoppers.

Argos, which ditched its main catalogue this summer, has published a Christmas gift guide and posted it to 1 million customers’ homes for the first time.

It put the put the catalogue at the heart of its seasonal TV ad in recognition of the power of turning down the corner of a page or drawing a circle around a favoured item.

Mark Davies, the managing director of the direct-mail division at the delivery firm Whistl, said the business had seen steady growth in business since the spring lockdown when many companies had cancelled their campaigns.

Attitudes changed, he said, after industry-wide data showed a big uptake in response rates during the lockdown.

Whistl said one customer who decided to go ahead with their regular campaign in April reported a 41% improvement in responses this year because more shoppers were at home.

“We are doing a lot of first-time tests for brands that have never done print before, such as delivery businesses like Riverford and Wiltshire Farm Foods and online clothing specialists such as Lands’ End and Shein, while some that have tried before, like, have begun regular activity,” Davies said.

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Davies also referred to a case for a home improvement company that showed an increase in linear targets by c. 7%. And at the same time proving the perfect integration of door drops and online. By adding door drops to mix of online advertising and social media total website traffic increase by 72%

More anecdotal cases show each the activation power of door drops.

  • A furniture retailer saw an 11% increase in their online sales from their Easter Doordrop.
  • A charity emergency appeal in May received £37k donations from just the phone in the first week of their doordrop. As they were really pleased they repeated the campaign in June.
  • A food delivery company had a very positive response with a door drop in June, the campaign resulted in results 40% ahead of forecast and a reduction of the cost per acquisition from £16 to £10  


Cox & Cox, the upmarket homewares brand, said it was sending more catalogues in the hope of attracting new customers but had tried to be more targeted so potential shoppers were not overwhelmed.

Despite the ease of using the internet to connect with consumers, the company said: “A far lower proportion of people open an email or click on an online ad than pick up and keep a catalogue. By combining a variety of channels you can not only reinforce your message but also increase your chances of catching people at just the right time.”


It’s also quite difficult and uncomfortable to scroll through 3,000 products on your laptop while sat on the loo.
Cox & Cox
Cox & Cox

Mark Davies underlines this by referring to the response rate increase during the first lockdown. Whilst the usual response rate on door drops is 0,36%, the April results were 41% up. Not only door drops show this increase in response rates, partially addressed mail response rate increased from 1,24% to 1,6%.

With more families at home with time on their hands, fewer leaflets are going straight in the bin. According to research by Royal Mail, 88% of people surveyed said they paid as much or more attention to mail during lockdown.

The postal firm said some of its corporate clients, many of which did not reopen all of their stores after the UK-wide lockdown in spring, had sent catalogues to people in those areas as a new way of reaching them.

Source: Article partly based upon article published The Guardian November 21, 2020