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Printed Catalogues – Precursor To M-shopping?

Do you remember the time when we fell in love
With all the products in the Catalogues
Do you remember the time when we
Dreamt that this love would never end.

That is a paraphrase of the famous Michael Jackson number, “Do You Remember the Time”. The bulky tomes, aka the catalogues, have been laid to rest after a prolonged period. For a long time, the departmental stores in the West relied upon catalogues as a marketing tool. The sound of a 1,200 page catalogue, filled with the wonders of the world falling on to your doormat every year was a pleasant sound to all who relied upon mail shopping.

catalogue vs online shopping

If you had friends in the UK you would ask one of them to get the catalogue for you to India and then would start the shopping-from-home craze. You would be sitting and poring over the catalogue for days and then send orders to your friend. Your friend would either post the goods to you or get it for you on his/her next trip to India. It would often take at least one month but these were exciting days for us Indians, impatiently waiting for the goods to get to us.

When we think of it today, what were the benefits to mail shopping? Much the same as the benefits from online shopping. No fuel wasted, no crowds to jostle through, cheaper prices because of the goods being housed in a depot rather than a high street shop. In fact, the chief executive of Littlewoods (a British institution where catalogue shopping was in place for 80 years) said the change has been ‘led by our customers, they’ve embraced online at a phenomenal pace’. Littlewoods will down its shutters this year.

It is a sad occasion in cataloguing business; the catalogue editions documented the evolving tastes over 80 years and featured some fairly prominent celebrities as models. Online truly has established a new era and revolutionized the way we shop today and there is no looking back!

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