Catalogue Shopping – Yet to Gain Momentum

Catalog retail in IndiaCatalog Shopping / Retailing is the concept of buying from your home browsing through the retailers catalog [hard copy and sometimes online]. The origin of catalog shopping dates back to early 1900 in the western world known under the name mail order shopping. Our focus today is on catalog retailing in India.

I am sure atleast some of you must have heard about the existence of Otto Burlington a decade ago in the Indian market. However, it failed primarily for 3 reasons – in-effective telecommunication interaction, absence of easy mode of payments and a structured logistics setup for distribution.

Retailers have used catalog as a complimentary channel to store retailing. Hypercity Argos in India tweaked the model making physical stores a walk-in-opportunity for a much bigger catalog from which customers could place orders. The orders are restricted to Mumbai area only.

Apart from Hypercity Argos, home decor and interior products retailer Elvy offers catalog retailing on PAN India basis. Elvy started with mail order catalog 3 years ago. Tata Croma also has limited catalog retailing in Pune and Mumbai. The idea behind both catalog and in-store simultaneous retailing is to build the brand and win the confidence of Indian consumer, ignored for decades and taken for a ride including its own Governments.

What you will notice is all of the above Catalog Retailers also have standalone stores. When we first wrote about Catalog shopping in 2007, we said

Since this is just the beginning of retail revolution in India, consumers would actually like to goto mall and enjoy the shopping experience.

Andrew Levermore of Hypercity also said the same,

For an Indian consumer, going out for shopping is still a very much leisure activity….In the West, shopping is often seen as a necessary but somewhat painful experience. This will be the case in India, but eventually.

Some of the challenges Catalog retailers face in India are merchandising, space management, offers and promotions, frequency of mailing. Logistic is the biggest challenge for a PAN India retailer.

Home Decor, Furniture, White Goods / Appliance are the strongest categories for catalog retailing. However, customer targeting, brand building and pricing the product competitively is very essential.

As Indian economy matures and creates nuclear families in an urban setup with shortage of time, Catalog retailing will gain some momentum. However, it is unlikely that the catalogs will be door delivered rather they could be hosted online and the retailer willing to offer call center support for shoppers.

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