business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The digital revolution strikes again.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Victoria's Secret has decided to abandon its print catalog business, bringing to an end an institution that has "been at the core of the Victoria’s Secret brand since it started four decades ago."

It is expected that the move will save the company as much as $100 million in publishing costs, though some experts worry that the move could cause the brand to be "less top of mind with male and female customers long-term.”

L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret, said the shift reflected strategic changes that include “evolving how the business connects with customers through more focus on loyalty programs and brand-building engagement rather than traditional catalogues and offers.”

The story notes that this hardly is a uniform position within the catalog business. JC Penney, for example, dropped its catalog business in 2010 but then brought it back in 2015, believing it had lost customers. And "the Direct Marketing Association says 53% of consumers purchase from a catalog at least once a year, with 17% purchasing monthly or more often. After a steep decline, catalog mailings rose in 2013 for the first time in six years."

For me, it is like paper coupons. I'm not sure they'll ever completely go away, and there may even be times when use will spike because of economic conditions. But it is hard to imagine that in an increasingly digital world, paper coupons and paper catalogs are growth industries.

Change is inevitable. And while institutions like the Victoria's Secret catalog may go away, they will be replaced by new institutions. That isn't good or bad. Just change. And it is the companies that resist change that flirt with irrelevance.
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