May 5, 2009, 12:00 AM

More print catalogs are moving online, National Directory of Catalogs shows

The number of print catalogs with online editions rose to 8,894 in 2008 from 8,675 over the past year. Niche catalogs were the fastest -growing category online and offline.

The number of print-only catalogs dropped over the past year, April 2008 to 2009, while online-only catalogs gained in number, according to Oxbridge Communications, which publishes the annual National Directory of Catalogs for suppliers to the industry.

The number of print catalogs with online editions also rose, to 8,894 from 8,675 the previous year. Catalogs available in online-only formats climbed to 2,011 from 1,868 during the same time, while print-only paper catalogs decreased in number to 1,347 from 1,574.

Oxbridge Communications defines online catalogs as “significant e-commerce sites, PDF files, and digital flip-books.” The 10,905 online catalogs, spanning those that are published online only and those that are a companion to a company’s offline paper catalog, include 100 of what the Oxbridge identifies as digital catalogs-online replications of paper catalogs in a flip-book format.

Among all online and offline catalogs, those that are highly specialized are doing well, according to Trish Hagood, president of Oxbridge Communications. “Niche areas of the catalog business that cater to the increased interest in entertaining at home are thriving, such as baking,” she says.

Over the past five years, the number of baking products catalogs, including both online and offline catalogs, grew at the fastest rate of any category, jumping 325% to 68 from 16, according to Oxbridge. Produce catalogs grew 183% to 82 from 29 and confectionary catalogs grew 138% to 176 from 74 during the same time.

Book catalogs remain the largest category, rising to 1,156 from 1,071 five years ago. Other leading categories of catalog were apparel and accessories, which rose to 819 from 711 during that time, and automotive, with 593 catalogs, up from 389 five years ago, according to Oxbridge.

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