September 28, 2010, 3:11 PM

The Internet kills more catalogs at J.C. Penney

As the web grows, all 25 niche catalogs will be canceled next year. 

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Just 10 months after axing its twice-yearly Big Book, J.C. Penney Co. is getting out of the catalog business altogether.

In 2011, J.C. Penney will cease publishing about 25 other specialty catalogs, says a spokeswoman. Instead, J.C. Penney, No. 16 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, will publish more direct marketing pieces such as its 43-page “Little Red Book” and “Matter of Style” publications that showcase current merchandise such as men’s and women’s fashions available in the chain’s 1,107 department stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and online at JCP.com.

“We will no longer be publishing our specialty catalogs which were being used as ‘look books’ by our customers to see what was new in the stores or online,” the spokeswoman says. “We have always served our customers by how they want to shop and now and in the future that’s online and in stores.”

The move to stop publishing niche catalogs follows last September’s decision to cancel its 800-page, semi-annual Big Book. J.C. Penney’s big-book catalog was once the focal point of a print-based direct marketing business that was among the biggest in the retail industry. Along with an established direct marketing infrastructure, the big catalog helped J.C. Penney make a successful transition to web-based retailing in 1994.

But J.C. Penney, which earlier this summer announced plans to rebuild its e-commerce platform and achieve $1 billion in new web sales over the next four to five years, will now use the web to drive e-commerce revenue among younger buyers aged 25 to 34. “We knew we had to transition out of the catalog business to much more of a digital format,” CEO Myron Ullman told attendees last week at the Goldman Sachs Retail Conference in New York. “As we transition out of the catalog business it's not that we are getting out of print. We are transitioning from the catalog as essentially a static vehicle to really what we call 'find more,' which is print material that takes the consumer to the Internet or to the store.”

Going forward, J.C. Penney, which didn’t say how much money it would save annually by ceasing to publish catalogs, will use its print publications as targeted direct marketing pieces to reach specific groups of customers, the spokeswoman says. “We will use print materials to drive web and store traffic,” she says.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. showed a modest year-over-year gain for the second quarter ended July 31:

  • Web sales rose about 4% to $317 million from $305 million.
  • Total Q2 sales dipped 0.1% year-over-year to $3.93 billion from $3.94 billion.
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