10 Reasons Catalog Companies that Refused to Go Online Caved

People who live in rural areas have relied on mail-order catalogs for generations. Small town stores are only able to carry a limited supply of merchandise and traveling to larger cities for shopping isn’t always practical. Companies like Sears, JC Penny, Wards, Spiegel and numerous others did a brisk business with families who enjoyed browsing the pages of their catalogs instead of their brick and mortar stores. As the internet capabilities grew, online shopping started to replace the need for mail-order catalogs. Those companies who didn’t learn to take advantage of this online business soon found themselves facing bankruptcy. Here are 10 reasons catalog companies that refused to go online soon caved.

  1. Limited customer base – Companies who don’t maintain a website have a very limited customer base. Most household now own computers and use them to find stores and do their shopping. The few people who don’t own a computer and use mail-order catalogs exclusively aren’t enough to sustain a thriving business.
  2. Mailing lists – Mail-order companies rely on accurate mailing lists to send out their catalogs. As customers move or become deceased these lists must be constantly updated. The cost of maintaining an accurate mailing list has become increasingly prohibitive.
  3. Cost of catalogs – Publishing, printing and mailing catalogs is a huge expense to retail businesses and one of diminishing returns. Even though catalog companies use a lower bulk rate for their postage, the cost of sending out millions of copies is huge. Instead of printing millions of catalogs, millions of customers can all view the same thing on a website at the same time for the same cost.
  4. Doing both – Catalog companies who have survived the onset of the internet age are the ones who decided to do both bulk mail and online. This way an attractive catalog can generate interest while providing a website for customer convenience.
  5. Cutting edge – As with any other business, companies who don’t keep up with cutting edge technology don’t have much chance of survival. Successful companies have to be constantly looking ahead to generate new customers to grow their business.
  6. Outdated catalogs – Printed catalogs quickly go out of date and need to be constantly replaced while websites can be updated instantly as the need arises. Customers who order from catalogs in the mail often find the products they need are out of stock before they have a chance to order them.
  7. Customer convenience – For computer savvy customers, the convenience of online shopping can’t be beat. Companies who are limited solely to catalogs are not providing the convenience their customers demand.
  8. Unlimited customers – The world-wide-web provides catalog companies with an unlimited source of new customers. Any business who would pass up this opportunity is committing corporate suicide.
  9. Customers find you – Instead of constantly working to attract new customers, online retail companies have the luxury of customers looking for them. A simple internet search puts your business at the world’s fingertips.
  10. Supply and demand – The basis of the free market is supply and demand. Any business who doesn’t do everything they can to maximize this basic economic principal will quickly fail. A catalog company who refuses to go online will soon find out that they’re not supplying the demands of their customers. 

I searched in vain for any formerly mail-order only company who didn’t currently have a website that provides online shopping. They simply don’t exist. Many of these companies still provide catalogs and some are now strictly online. This is understandable since the convenience and selection for online shopping is simply unsurpassed. Obscure items that are impossible to find in brick and mortar stores are now at your fingertips on the web. Now if I can just get them to stop sending me all those darn catalogs!

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