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Catalogs still part of our digital lives

We supposedly live in a digital age, but almost daily catalogs and sales circulars show up in our mailboxes and on our driveways.

Well, get ready for even more. J.C. Penney Co. has decided to revive its catalog business, with the first one expected to be delivered in March.

Why would the struggling retailer got back into catalog sales? They click with some shoppers.

“Customers, particularly when it comes to looking at home merchandise, still like flipping through a traditional print piece but then they go to … to order the item or go into our store,” J.C. Penney spokesperson Kate Coultas told Entrepreneur. “It’s a traffic driving, marketing piece.”

Penney hasn’t mailed a catalog since 2010 and its last “big book” was the 2009 fall/winter edition. The department store chain’s new catalog won’t be the one-time, much-anticipated 800-page tome but a relatively skinny book of 120 pages focused on products from its home department.

The number of mailed catalogs rose slightly in 2013 to 11.9 billion, the first annual increase since 2006, The Direct Marketing Association says. Catalog mailings peaked at 19.6 billion in 2007.

Management consultancy Kurt Salmon says catalogs are an important part of a retailer’s sales effort.

“Catalogs are effective not only at getting people to spend money. Compared with customers who use only the Web to shop, those who use catalogs spend more money and return more often,” Kurt Salmon writes in a blog post titled “Is the catalog dead?” “But it is the customers who utilize both channels who are the most valuable of all.”

Pallets loaded with the J.C. Penney Co. Christmas catalog in 2002. | AP file photo