October 21, 2010
J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s transition from “Big Book” catalogues to “look book” mailers is now complete.
The Plano, Tex.-based retailer ended its Big Book catalogue earlier this year. J.C. Penney will still be in the print media business, but the new books will become “specialty in-store” mailers showcasing select fashion looks or must-haves to encourage consumers to shop in-store or online. The traditional catalogue format featured everything in a particular category.
Speaking last month at the Telsey Advisory Group’s Consumer Conference, Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd, chairman and chief executive officer of Penney’s, told attendees, “Our strength ended up being a limitation at some point. Our being in 77 different catalogues, [speaking] to a lot of narrow audiences — frankly, it tied up a lot of inventory and got us kind of supporting multiple businesses that probably weren’t necessary.”
Penney’s catalogue dates back to 1963 and grew to a $1 billion in 1979, according to Penney’s.
Walter Loeb, former retail analyst and head of the consulting firm that bears his name, said, “This is the end of an era. Penney’s was great with their catalogue and it is the last of the cataloguers getting out of the business. Given the economic environment, it is probably more profitable for them to use the Little Red Book format as a marketing tool.”
“We made approximately 25 catalogue mailings in 2010, which was less than we’ve had in previous years as we’ve been replacing our traditional ‘big book’ catalogues with more focused cross-channel marketing pieces sent to customers on a targeted basis,” a Penney’s spokeswoman told WWD. “We mailed seven Women’s Little Red Books in 2010 and we’ll increase to nine to 10 in 2011. We mailed five Men’s Matters of Style books in 2010 and we’ll increase to six to seven in 2011.”
Shoppers who relied on the catalogues for their purchases can either go to jcp.com or contact a Penney customer care center, which will input the order through the Web site.
One source familiar with the change said increasing printing and postage costs “would soon be a considerable drag” on the retailer’s business. In addition, the catalogue operation had its own inventory system that was not connected with inventory at the stores or at jcp.com. Another source said the move will allow the retailer to better manage inventory and allocation levels for its stores and Web site.
The spokeswoman noted that one new feature online is the ability to input a zip code to find out if an item is available in a nearby store.