Sears will reconnect with its oldest customers with holiday Wish Book, but won’t attract new onesOctober 27, 2017 | By Fluent
Publication date 10/27/2017
With all of the challenges Sears Holding Corp. is facing, a holiday catalog relaunch might not sound like the best way for it to spend money. But experts say the new Wish Book is a good way for the company to engage with its “best members” during the important holiday shopping season.
Sears SHLD, -4.54% said Thursday that it would revive the Wish Book, last available in 2011, as a 120-page catalog and make the book available to its “best” customers and select Shop Your Way members, who will receive an email invitation to pick up a copy at their local store. The book includes kitchen items, holiday decorations, home furnishings, toys and more.
The Wish Book will also be available online and on the Sears app, with flexible pricing throughout the season to ensure the best deals.
“The goal was to connect with our members and their memories in a deeper level than just social media interaction,” according to Sears’ Chief Marketing Officer Kelly Cook, who said the retailer’s shoppers shared memories of the catalog from years ago.
“It’s important to understand that the Wish Book is just one piece of what will be a robust holiday offering from Sears for our Shop Your Way members,” she said. “Everything we are doing this holiday season revolves around our Shop Your Way members and how we can make their lives easier and better.”
The Wish Book will have a “relatively small” print run, she said, though when asked, the company did not provide the cost for producing the book in time for this story.
Sears isn’t the only company that has made a catalog part of its marketing strategy, even in this age of digital marketing and e-commerce.
Neiman Marcus has an annual Christmas Book that includes, in addition to designer gowns and gift suggestions at various price points, “Fantasy Gifts,” like a “Saint-Tropez Orange” Rolls-Royce for $445,750.
And the Fall 2017 Source Book from RH RH, +0.09% , formerly Restoration Hardware, includes information about the designers as well as the home furnishing items for sale that they’ve designed.
Data provided by marketing company Fluent found that 36% of Americans prefer physical mail, more than radio ads (16%), TV ads (32%) and online/mobile ads (24%). Women more than men express a preference for physical mail, and adults 35 and over are more receptive to physical mail than adults ages 18 to 34.
Nearly a third of brand mail recipients (32%) said they open and read all the marketing materials the get.
“If you’re going to send a catalog, this is the best time to do it,” said Jordan Cohen, chief marketing officer of Fluent, noting that retailers are looking to drive as much as half of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season.
“The goal is to get in front of your target audience, create a perception of value and hope that they buy from you,” he said.
If the Sears customer skews older and female, then the Wish Book is a sound marketing strategy for “immediate returns.”
Suchurita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research, agrees.
“While Sears is struggling and the Wish Book definitely won’t turn the business around, the idea of catalogs is a good one,” she said. “People still like getting direct mail and Sears has so many lapsed customers now that a catalog could actually re-engage some of them.”
Moreover, with so many deals and promotions hitting mobile devices and inboxes this time of year, a catalog can “cut through the clutter.”
Still, a catalog is expensive to produce and send, and Sears is struggling financially.
“I would say it isn’t the best use of capital but I’m not sure they have many other attractive options for investments that could deliver quick revenue,” Mulpuru said.
While a catalog might be a good idea for the holidays, in the long term, Sears will have to appeal to millennial and Gen Z shoppers to grow. A catalog isn’t going to accomplish that.
“This might be missing the critical need of growth, expansion and regaining of lost market share during a time when Sears is closing stores nationwide,” said Jim Fosina, founder and chief executive of Fosina Marketing Group. “If I were Sears, I would be heavily focused on my digital strategy to pivot the company from ‘old school retail and direct’ to today’s point, click and receive purchase economy – or another icon falls.”
Sears shares are down 3.8% on Friday, and are down 47.8% for the past year. The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.80% is up 21% for the last 12 months while the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.11% has surged nearly 29% for the period.