J.C. Penney is bidding farewell to its biannual “big book” catalogue. Instead, the retailer said it will throw greater weight behind “customized, more timely” specialty catalogues for targeted audiences, and online and social media opportunities.

This story first appeared in the November 19, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The 36-year-old big book had the heft of a telephone book and ranged from 900 to 1,500 pages. It surpassed $1 billion in sales in 1979. The big book became a victim of rising costs and a shift by customers to shopping online. Penney’s direct business, catalogue and online, exceeds $4 billion.

Sears had the longest-running big book, but it folded in 1993 after 106 years. Penney’s final big book is the current fall-winter edition.

“Big book catalogues have become less relevant as customers have embraced shopping online, where they have ready access to our entire assortment at any time on jcp.com, one of the nation’s largest general merchandise sites on the Internet,” said Mike Boylson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “At the same time, customers greatly appreciate the smaller, more personalized catalogues we have introduced, as well as digital and mobile applications that make it easier, more convenient and fun to shop with us.”

Penney’s said the decision to close the big book will save trees and other natural resources. The company anticipates a year-over-year reduction of 25 to 30 percent in paper used for catalogues next year. For the past four years, Penney’s has been working to reduce its paper consumption.

“To ensure we are keeping pace with consumers’ changing media habits and continued migration to online versus catalogue shopping, we have increased our investments in new technologies, as well as successfully integrated the merchandising and marketing teams serving stores, jcp.com and catalogue into one enterprise-wide team that is able to consistently and seamlessly serve our customers, no matter how they prefer to shop with us,” said Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd, chairman and chief executive officer.

Jcp.com has more than 250,000 merchandise offerings and millions of opt-in e-mail subscribers. Penney’s also has a range of digital marketing initiatives, such as an iPhone application launched this year and a presence on social media sites such as Facebook.

Penney’s specialty catalogues include the “Little Red Book” for women’s apparel and accessories, and “Matters of Style” for men. There’s also a Christmas catalogue and various home catalogues.

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