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Why Toy Catalogues Are So Effective For Retailers

Why Toy Catalogues Are So Effective For Retailers

Here in the UK, the nation’s children historically pulled together their Christmas wish lists with the assistance of the bulky Argo catalogue. Argos reportedly printed 20 million of these copies until they stopped the catalogue in 2020 – just to put that in context there are estimated to be around 28 million households in the UK, so they were printing nearly one for every household.

On a recent visit to a Smyths Toys store in the UK I picked up a copy of their catalogue, which was pallet stacked on 2 pallets outside the entrance to the store. The print and production costs of this type of catalogue are obviously significant.

So why would retailers be producing catalogues in this day and age of social media and online media consumption?

Well, the answer to that is the way children choose what toys they want for Christmas. I have conducted several research studies historically looking at how and when children pull together their wish lists – this is obviously critically important for toy companies to understand, because media buying may need to be adapted to make sure communication is maximised at the point in time when children are actually making their choices, which is often surprisingly far in advance of purchase by parents. This varies significantly by market, but in the UK, Christmas lists can be finalised anytime from September onwards, with the October half term holiday (around the 3rd week typically) is normally the kick-off point for peak season sales for toys.

What catalogues allow children to do is to review a significant selection of toys, so they can enjoy the experience of looking at lots of aspirational products, before eventually making a choice and passing that onto their parents. From the parental perspective, this exercise and the catalogue itself are very helpful, because not only can they see whether the toys their child requests are appropriate and meeting with their approval, they can also see the price and how that and everything else compares with the obvious competition. For example, some households may prefer to buy a generic version of something over a higher priced brand, or to change their child’s choice for some other reason of values, taste, socialisation or play value.

So, while the UK may still be getting used to the absence of the Argos catalogue, there is no doubt that catalogues will continue to be effective for retailers both in the UK and around the world.

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