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Cataloguing The Future

You might say printed paper catalogues are dead, but at least one retailer is proving that they can still deliver.

This is both a follow-on to my Still (Oddly) Analogue post , as well as an attempt to further confuse my Yankee readers with another gratuitous -ue spelling.

When I was a wee child, one of my favourite things to do was to help Mum stick Green Shield stamps in to the collector’s book before going off to look at the catalogue and see what we could redeem.

The Green Shield Trading Stamp Company became Argos, and the stamps were phased out, but the catalogues got bigger and bigger until they came with their own bag for carrying them home.

Once (or was it twice?) a year Argos would release a new catalogue. It’s hard to believe now, but this was a huge event (at least in our household). I'd make a special trip (perhaps with my brother in tow) to collect the catalogue. Once home, we'd spend hours lying on the living room rug poring over the contents, planning what birthdays and Christmas might bring us. As I recall, the combined high and low point was when we got AirFix’s Super Flight Deck. The TV ad was so thrilling; the reality less so.


Whilst Argos is still going strong (although now repositioned as an internet retailer with local warehouses so you can buy and collect in the same day—plus a new collaboration with eBay to provide another delivery channel), the concept of a physical catalogue seems rather out-of-date. There’s no search feature, no consumer reviews, no video content. Not to mention that for a merchant with such a large inventory, a printed catalogue becomes obsolete almost the moment it comes off the press.

Yet, two paper catalogues still come through my letterbox: Yellow Pages and IKEA. So how are these retailers coping with the digital world?

Yellow Pages has a promising start with a QR code on the front page that leads you to the corresponding app. The carbon footprint to get that QR code to me was huge, and certainly my Mum will have no idea what to do with it (the instructions on the inside page are rather daunting).


Instructing people to text ‘yellow' to an SMS short code to would have worked much better. (Because SMS Still Rulz .)

IKEA also has an app, which the catalogue mentions, but requires you to find on your own.


Once installed, IKEA’s app enables you to get to extra info about each product, which helps bridge the gap between printed materials and a more traditional online shopping experience. It also has a few bonus tricks up its sleeve.

Seems like Yellow Pages is still struggling to play ball in the digital world, but IKEA has a foot firmly planted in both worlds, proving that catalogues aren’t dead yet.