It's 2005. I'm sitting with the Inventory VP, and she's angry. We're about to kill our catalog at Nordstrom, and she has a bone to pick with me.
- "If we don't feature the item in a catalog, the item won't sell. And if we don't have a catalog, we won't sell anything!"
I pulled out my mail/holdout test reporting. When we did not mail a catalog, customers still bought stuff - at robust levels. Different stuff, of course, but still spending plenty of cheddar.
The Inventory VP then pulled out her reports. She showed me how "internet-only" items only pulled 1/10th the volume of a catalog-featured item. I'll paraphrase her next comment.
- "You're going to kill this business, and you don't know how to measure anything."
We killed the catalog in the middle of 2005.
Most of the catalog items, per the VP's thesis, died on the vine.
The other half of the assortment, now supported by a robust search campaign, sold like hot cakes.
Sales hemorrhaged for three months.
Then sales exploded.
Profit had never been better.
If your view of the world is catalog-centric, you'll have a hard time selling merchandise not featured in a catalog.
If your view of the world is merchandise-centric, you'll find ways to sell merchandise.
How you answer the question above says a lot about the marketing channel that you prioritize at your company.