British Retailers Asos, Boden and TopShop Tap U #online #shoping


#british retailers

#

British Retailers Asos, Boden and TopShop Tap U.S. Market For Growth

LONDON, United Kingdom — On the heels of Downton Abbey’s success on American television, British retailers are banking on a love of all things English to expand their business in the world’s biggest apparel market.

Leading the British invasion are online specialist Asos Plc, fashion chain TopShop, catalogue retailer Boden, youth-focused Jack Wills Ltd. and SuperGroup Plc’s Superdry stores. Their strategies vary some trade on British cool, others emphasise local knowhow yet all focus on what they do best rather than buying an existing imprint or starting an entirely new brand that Americans have never heard of.

In doing so, the retailers are learning from the mistakes of fellow British chains such as J Sainsbury Plc and Marks Spencer Group Plc who have retreated from North America. As boutique U.K. firms grab more of the $200 billion U.S. market, that poses a threat to American mainstays like Gap Inc., J. Crew Group Inc. and Abercrombie Fitch, who have been busy expanding outside their home country.

“U.K. retailers that are succeeding have a very strong, differentiated brand positioning that is well understood by the American consumer,” said Ian Geddes, U.K. head of retail at consultants Deloitte LLP. “They are doing well by emphasising what their brand stands for.”

British retailers have for decades gazed longingly across the Atlantic, and the desire to broaden their operations is stronger today amid an anemic U.K. retail industry.

Yet these forays often end badly. In 1988, Marks Spencer, Britain’s largest clothing retailer, paid $750 million for Brooks Brothers, the oldest U.S. clothier, only to sell it for less than a third of the purchase price 13 years later amid a shift away from suits to more casual duds like Gap’s khakis. Tesco Plc sunk 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) into its Fresh Easy U.S. grocery chain over the past five years without making a profit, and has said it will likely leave the U.S. after a review of the business.

Today, British retailers are winning fans by just being themselves. The online-only fashion retailer Asos, whose own- brand sequin sunset dress was spotted on singer Katy Perry, has lured American consumers since its 2010 debut with free delivery and returns of items ranging from $542 Edun Mesh designer jumpsuits to $11.87 own-label crop tops. It stays on top of consumer trends with an 11-strong team based in New York that makes decisions locally.

“There will be more people we put into the U.S. team so I expect them to find their footing and accelerate growth,” Finance Director Nicholas Beighton told analysts in March. “There is a bigger market in the U.S. there are more options, more channels, more digital marketing channels.”

U.S. sales increased 54 percent to 35.6 million pounds in the six months ended Feb. 28, making America Asos’s fastest- growing market. With more than one million registered customers as of December, the U.S. is now its largest market outside the U.K. with nine percent of revenue. The shares have soared 88 percent over the past year, well ahead of the FTSE All-Share Index’s 12 percent gain.

Another winner is TopShop, the flagship chain of billionaire Philip Green ’s Arcadia fashion empire. TopShop, known for mid-priced trendy styles from talented young designers, entered the U.S. in 2009 with a store in Manhattan. Rather than pour millions into new outlets right away, Green opted for a low-risk approach by signing a deal last year with U.S. retailer Nordstrom Inc. to sell TopShop’s wares in some of its high-end department stores.

Now that shoppers from Arizona to Pennsylvania have sampled the brand, Green has plans to expand from four to 20 TopShop and TopMan outlets in the U.S. which could generate $1 billion in sales by 2018. To help fuel the rollout, Green in December sold a 25 percent stake to private-equity firm Leonard Green Partners in a deal that valued the chains at 2 billion pounds.

While TopShop plays a bit on its quirky English sensibility, other chains turn their British-ness up to 11, to borrow a phrase from “This is Spinal Tap,” the mock documentary about aging English rock stars. Two examples are Boden, an online and catalogue retailer that focuses on womenswear and kid’s clothes, and London-based Jack Wills, which targets teens and college students.

So popular are Boden’s $120 embroidered girl’s dresses among well-to-do women in New York, Dallas and San Francisco that the company says the U.S. will overtake Britain as its biggest market in the next few years. Privately held Boden has doubled capacity at its Pennsylvania warehouse and ramped up ad spending online and in fashion magazines like In Style.

More than anything else, it’s Boden’s use of British icons like red London buses that drives the appeal and challenges the big American catalogue retailers like J. Crew and LL Bean Inc.

American consumers possess an “admiration for an authentic U.K. perspective,” said Graham Hales, chief executive officer of branding consultant Interbrand, citing the popularity of Downton Abbey. “It’s a chocolate box version of the U.K. that exists in Americans’ minds.”

Boden’s U.S. revenue rose 10 percent last year to $140 million, and Granville said he expects to double that pace this year, reaching $300 million “at least” by 2017. That’s a fraction of the more than $10 billion generated in America by Gap, the biggest U.S. specialty-apparel retailer, whose sales rose 7.6 percent in the year ended Feb. 2.

Kristin Emery, a 42-year-old physiotherapist and mother of three in Virginia, started buying from Boden about five years ago. While she also shops at Gap, Nordstrom, and J. Crew, Emery spends $100 to $200 per visit at Boden, typically buying a few times each season. Her last purchase was eight pieces for her children ages 3, 7, and 9 for their spring break.

“There is an Anglophile scene there which British brands can and do tap into,” said Julian Granville, Boden’s CEO.

Jack Wills, meanwhile, has 13 outlets in the U.S. its largest overseas market. Its tagline, “Fabulously British,” mirrors that of Boden’s. The company sends brand representatives dubbed “Seasonnaires,” well-scrubbed college students, to campuses in America to host events like croquet tournaments.

While British retailers make inroads in the U.S. the best- known American retailers are looking abroad for growth. Gap will open 35 stores this year in China, a region that CEO Glenn Murphy calls “a cornerstone of future growth.” The San Francisco-based company also took its Old Navy brand outside the U.S. for the first time last year, opening an outlet in Japan, the world’s second-biggest specialty apparel market, according to data trackers Euromonitor. Gap shares have risen about 35 percent over the past year.

J. Crew’s direct business, which accounts for 30 percent of its $2.2 billion in sales, now ships to more than 100 countries, up from 29 a year ago. The closely held company plans to increase investments abroad, Chief Administrative Officer James Scully told analysts in a March 21 presentation.

Abercrombie Fitch, meanwhile, has been closing underperforming U.S. stores as it grows overseas, where sales jumped 34 percent last year. A F opened a store on London’s storied Savile Row, over the objections of the neighborhood’s bespoke tailors, who don’t fancy the chain’s nightclub vibe and shirtless employees.

As U.K. retailers cater to wider U.S. audiences, they risk losing the distinctiveness that defines them, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group in Port Washington, New York. One cautionary tale is Laura Ashley Holdings Plc, the London-based retailer known for its floral designs, which sold its unprofitable U.S. unit for $1 in 1999 after overexpanding just as its once sought-after designs fell out of fashion.

“Any old English brand will not necessarily do well,” said Isabel Cavill, senior retail analyst at Planet Retail in London. “It should be about caution, building out the brand and leveraging the Internet to see what is going on in the market.

By: Sarah Shannon; Editors: Celeste Perri, Matthew Boyle, Paul Jarvis


Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogs #retail #not #me


#retail catalogs

#

Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogs

Updated April 16, 2014 10:41 p.m. ET

When everything is available for sale on your smartphone, why do catalogs still clutter your mailbox?

The old-school marketing format has survived to play a crucial creative role in modern e-commerce. Today, the catalog is bait for customers, like a store window display, and a source of inspiration, the way roaming through store aisles can be. The hope is shoppers will mark pages they like and then head online, or into a store, to buy.

Today’s catalogs are no longer phone-book-size compilations of every item a retailer sells. Instead, they have fewer pages and merchandise descriptions, and more and bigger photos and lifestyle images.

For retailers, creating the inspiration comes with hefty costs, including expensive photo shoots and rising postage rates. And with catalogs produced many months in advance, they lock retailers into specific trends and merchandise, unlike digital marketing pieces that can be updated in minutes.

Even so, the potential for boosting sales has brought new interest in print catalogs. Some retailers founded primarily online are entering the fray, including Bonobos, the menswear brand built on the idea of better-fitting pants. And many traditional store retailers with a history of catalogs remain as committed as ever.

Devon Jarvis for The Wall Street Journal

It’s still a very, very important part of our marketing mix, says Pat Connolly, chief marketing officer at Williams-Sonoma Inc. parent company to seven brands with catalogs including Pottery Barn and West Elm. Consumers look through it to get ideas and inspiration. And if we do a good job, they get ideas for things they didn’t even know they wanted before they got there.

Williams-Sonoma maintains a database of 2,000 privately owned houses that serve as locations for catalog photo shoots. More than half the company’s marketing budget goes to catalog production and mailing.

Marketers mailed 11.9 billion catalogs in 2013, according to the Direct Marketing Association, marking the first uptick in years. Total catalog circulation is still far below the 2007 peak of 19.6 billion. The 2008 recession forced catalog companies to cut dead wood out of their mailing lists and get smarter about how and when they mail.

Bonobos mailed a test catalog just over a year ago to a small number of current and potential customers. Results prompted the brand to try several more, gradually increasing circulation each time. Now, some 20% of the website’s first-time customers are placing their order after having received a catalog, says Craig Elbert, vice president of marketing for Bonobos. They spend 1.5 times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first.

Online tools to attract new customers, like display ads and emails, often have just one image or text line. A catalog gives us a bit more breathing room to grab folks’ attention, Mr. Elbert says. We’re able to tell a bit of a fuller brand story.

Bonobos intentionally limits the amount of descriptive text in its catalogs, skipping measurements and care instructions. Mr. Elbert says customers go online for that information.

The retailer has studied catalog responses to understand sales patterns, such as what was driving strong sales of casual shirts. Its first catalog, in March 2013, featured a model wearing a blue-and-green checked shirt with white jeans. Many men ordered both. As a result, the brand now routinely emphasizes full-outfit shots.

Catalogs require months of advance planning and production, presenting seasonal challenges for Athleta, a division of Gap Inc. The athletic-wear brand’s catalogs feature action shots of models wearing the clothes and using the gear. Finding the right setting is essential—and difficult, when the winter catalog must be shot in July.

It’s easy to fake out a yoga studio so it looks like winter, says Tess Roering, Athleta vice president of creative and marketing. But for skiing, she says, we need to go to places that have real snow. The Athleta team is set to travel to New Zealand in a few months.

The Williams-Sonoma Easter catalog features a $39.95 ‘bunny cake’ pan. Devon Jarvis for The Wall Street Journal

Long catalog lead times lock brands into specific products. After Athleta featured blue-and-yellow running tights on its April catalog cover, the tights arrived in stores 10 days late. Catalogs sent shoppers to stores for a product that wasn’t there.

It’s disappointing, Ms. Roering says. Once the tights were in stock, they sold well, she says.

Many retailers can pinpoint exactly when their catalogs land in mailboxes because of a spike in activity in stores and online. We see an immediate sales lift, says John Koryl, president of stores and online at Neiman Marcus. The catalog’s halo effect reaches beyond the contents of the book to the brand’s broader offerings.

Shoppers may not buy what’s on the cover of the catalog. They may not even buy in the category that the catalog covered, Mr. Koryl says. But it is this inspirational moment to remind them to shop.

The average catalog costs much less than a dollar to produce, including printing, mailing, the purchase of new addresses and fees for an outside mailing house or project management, says Polly Wong, managing partner for strategic e-commerce and creative services at Belardi/Ostroy, a retail marketing consulting firm. Response rates and order sizes run the gamut, but typically each catalog mailed results in about $4 in sales, she says.

Breegan Harper, a 22-year-old recruiter who lives in Seattle, gets catalogs including from Anthropologie and J. Crew and browses them while watching television. I can pick up a magazine or I can pick up a catalog, because they are going to both have fashion in them, she says. Rather than toss catalogs directly into the recycling bin, Ms. Harper and her five roommates often hold on to them. We have them out on our coffee table, she says. The cutest ones go in the living room.

WSJD is the Journal’s home for tech news, analysis and product reviews.

Boden, the U.K.-based clothing retailer, ships millions of catalogs around the world each year. Shoppers spend up to 15 to 20 minutes with the catalog, says Shanie Cunningham, head of U.S. marketing, compared with an average of just eight seconds for a Boden email and about five minutes with the Boden iPad app.

To encourage shoppers to spend even more time, Boden adds content to its catalogs, such as a pithy Q-and-A with its models. Some of its recent children’s catalogs include a page of stickers; other catalogs have had sticky tabs that can mark pages with sayings like Must Have or I Need This Now.

More catalogs are tailored for individuals, meaning the one you get could look very unlike the one your next-door neighbor gets. We definitely are targeting and personalizing, says Ms. Cunningham. Boden will change the theme, the size of the book and even the discount it offers to the same address. A recent catalog offered one spouse 15% off and the other just 11% off.

L.L.Bean is playing with the page count of catalogs it sends to regular website shoppers, says Steve Fuller, chief marketing officer at the outdoor and apparel retailer. Many of its catalogs come in different versions. So instead of sending every customer the largest book, Mr. Fuller looks for frequent website visitors and asks, Can I only send her 50 pages, or 20, as a reminder of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to the website’?


British Retailers Asos, Boden and TopShop Tap U #retail #manager #salary


#british retailers

#

British Retailers Asos, Boden and TopShop Tap U.S. Market For Growth

LONDON, United Kingdom — On the heels of Downton Abbey’s success on American television, British retailers are banking on a love of all things English to expand their business in the world’s biggest apparel market.

Leading the British invasion are online specialist Asos Plc, fashion chain TopShop, catalogue retailer Boden, youth-focused Jack Wills Ltd. and SuperGroup Plc’s Superdry stores. Their strategies vary some trade on British cool, others emphasise local knowhow yet all focus on what they do best rather than buying an existing imprint or starting an entirely new brand that Americans have never heard of.

In doing so, the retailers are learning from the mistakes of fellow British chains such as J Sainsbury Plc and Marks Spencer Group Plc who have retreated from North America. As boutique U.K. firms grab more of the $200 billion U.S. market, that poses a threat to American mainstays like Gap Inc., J. Crew Group Inc. and Abercrombie Fitch, who have been busy expanding outside their home country.

“U.K. retailers that are succeeding have a very strong, differentiated brand positioning that is well understood by the American consumer,” said Ian Geddes, U.K. head of retail at consultants Deloitte LLP. “They are doing well by emphasising what their brand stands for.”

British retailers have for decades gazed longingly across the Atlantic, and the desire to broaden their operations is stronger today amid an anemic U.K. retail industry.

Yet these forays often end badly. In 1988, Marks Spencer, Britain’s largest clothing retailer, paid $750 million for Brooks Brothers, the oldest U.S. clothier, only to sell it for less than a third of the purchase price 13 years later amid a shift away from suits to more casual duds like Gap’s khakis. Tesco Plc sunk 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) into its Fresh Easy U.S. grocery chain over the past five years without making a profit, and has said it will likely leave the U.S. after a review of the business.

Today, British retailers are winning fans by just being themselves. The online-only fashion retailer Asos, whose own- brand sequin sunset dress was spotted on singer Katy Perry, has lured American consumers since its 2010 debut with free delivery and returns of items ranging from $542 Edun Mesh designer jumpsuits to $11.87 own-label crop tops. It stays on top of consumer trends with an 11-strong team based in New York that makes decisions locally.

“There will be more people we put into the U.S. team so I expect them to find their footing and accelerate growth,” Finance Director Nicholas Beighton told analysts in March. “There is a bigger market in the U.S. there are more options, more channels, more digital marketing channels.”

U.S. sales increased 54 percent to 35.6 million pounds in the six months ended Feb. 28, making America Asos’s fastest- growing market. With more than one million registered customers as of December, the U.S. is now its largest market outside the U.K. with nine percent of revenue. The shares have soared 88 percent over the past year, well ahead of the FTSE All-Share Index’s 12 percent gain.

Another winner is TopShop, the flagship chain of billionaire Philip Green ’s Arcadia fashion empire. TopShop, known for mid-priced trendy styles from talented young designers, entered the U.S. in 2009 with a store in Manhattan. Rather than pour millions into new outlets right away, Green opted for a low-risk approach by signing a deal last year with U.S. retailer Nordstrom Inc. to sell TopShop’s wares in some of its high-end department stores.

Now that shoppers from Arizona to Pennsylvania have sampled the brand, Green has plans to expand from four to 20 TopShop and TopMan outlets in the U.S. which could generate $1 billion in sales by 2018. To help fuel the rollout, Green in December sold a 25 percent stake to private-equity firm Leonard Green Partners in a deal that valued the chains at 2 billion pounds.

While TopShop plays a bit on its quirky English sensibility, other chains turn their British-ness up to 11, to borrow a phrase from “This is Spinal Tap,” the mock documentary about aging English rock stars. Two examples are Boden, an online and catalogue retailer that focuses on womenswear and kid’s clothes, and London-based Jack Wills, which targets teens and college students.

So popular are Boden’s $120 embroidered girl’s dresses among well-to-do women in New York, Dallas and San Francisco that the company says the U.S. will overtake Britain as its biggest market in the next few years. Privately held Boden has doubled capacity at its Pennsylvania warehouse and ramped up ad spending online and in fashion magazines like In Style.

More than anything else, it’s Boden’s use of British icons like red London buses that drives the appeal and challenges the big American catalogue retailers like J. Crew and LL Bean Inc.

American consumers possess an “admiration for an authentic U.K. perspective,” said Graham Hales, chief executive officer of branding consultant Interbrand, citing the popularity of Downton Abbey. “It’s a chocolate box version of the U.K. that exists in Americans’ minds.”

Boden’s U.S. revenue rose 10 percent last year to $140 million, and Granville said he expects to double that pace this year, reaching $300 million “at least” by 2017. That’s a fraction of the more than $10 billion generated in America by Gap, the biggest U.S. specialty-apparel retailer, whose sales rose 7.6 percent in the year ended Feb. 2.

Kristin Emery, a 42-year-old physiotherapist and mother of three in Virginia, started buying from Boden about five years ago. While she also shops at Gap, Nordstrom, and J. Crew, Emery spends $100 to $200 per visit at Boden, typically buying a few times each season. Her last purchase was eight pieces for her children ages 3, 7, and 9 for their spring break.

“There is an Anglophile scene there which British brands can and do tap into,” said Julian Granville, Boden’s CEO.

Jack Wills, meanwhile, has 13 outlets in the U.S. its largest overseas market. Its tagline, “Fabulously British,” mirrors that of Boden’s. The company sends brand representatives dubbed “Seasonnaires,” well-scrubbed college students, to campuses in America to host events like croquet tournaments.

While British retailers make inroads in the U.S. the best- known American retailers are looking abroad for growth. Gap will open 35 stores this year in China, a region that CEO Glenn Murphy calls “a cornerstone of future growth.” The San Francisco-based company also took its Old Navy brand outside the U.S. for the first time last year, opening an outlet in Japan, the world’s second-biggest specialty apparel market, according to data trackers Euromonitor. Gap shares have risen about 35 percent over the past year.

J. Crew’s direct business, which accounts for 30 percent of its $2.2 billion in sales, now ships to more than 100 countries, up from 29 a year ago. The closely held company plans to increase investments abroad, Chief Administrative Officer James Scully told analysts in a March 21 presentation.

Abercrombie Fitch, meanwhile, has been closing underperforming U.S. stores as it grows overseas, where sales jumped 34 percent last year. A F opened a store on London’s storied Savile Row, over the objections of the neighborhood’s bespoke tailors, who don’t fancy the chain’s nightclub vibe and shirtless employees.

As U.K. retailers cater to wider U.S. audiences, they risk losing the distinctiveness that defines them, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group in Port Washington, New York. One cautionary tale is Laura Ashley Holdings Plc, the London-based retailer known for its floral designs, which sold its unprofitable U.S. unit for $1 in 1999 after overexpanding just as its once sought-after designs fell out of fashion.

“Any old English brand will not necessarily do well,” said Isabel Cavill, senior retail analyst at Planet Retail in London. “It should be about caution, building out the brand and leveraging the Internet to see what is going on in the market.

By: Sarah Shannon; Editors: Celeste Perri, Matthew Boyle, Paul Jarvis


Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogs #retail #positions


#retail catalogs

#

Why Online Retailers Like Bonobos, Boden, Athleta Mail So Many Catalogs

Updated April 16, 2014 10:41 p.m. ET

When everything is available for sale on your smartphone, why do catalogs still clutter your mailbox?

The old-school marketing format has survived to play a crucial creative role in modern e-commerce. Today, the catalog is bait for customers, like a store window display, and a source of inspiration, the way roaming through store aisles can be. The hope is shoppers will mark pages they like and then head online, or into a store, to buy.

Today’s catalogs are no longer phone-book-size compilations of every item a retailer sells. Instead, they have fewer pages and merchandise descriptions, and more and bigger photos and lifestyle images.

For retailers, creating the inspiration comes with hefty costs, including expensive photo shoots and rising postage rates. And with catalogs produced many months in advance, they lock retailers into specific trends and merchandise, unlike digital marketing pieces that can be updated in minutes.

Even so, the potential for boosting sales has brought new interest in print catalogs. Some retailers founded primarily online are entering the fray, including Bonobos, the menswear brand built on the idea of better-fitting pants. And many traditional store retailers with a history of catalogs remain as committed as ever.

Devon Jarvis for The Wall Street Journal

It’s still a very, very important part of our marketing mix, says Pat Connolly, chief marketing officer at Williams-Sonoma Inc. parent company to seven brands with catalogs including Pottery Barn and West Elm. Consumers look through it to get ideas and inspiration. And if we do a good job, they get ideas for things they didn’t even know they wanted before they got there.

Williams-Sonoma maintains a database of 2,000 privately owned houses that serve as locations for catalog photo shoots. More than half the company’s marketing budget goes to catalog production and mailing.

Marketers mailed 11.9 billion catalogs in 2013, according to the Direct Marketing Association, marking the first uptick in years. Total catalog circulation is still far below the 2007 peak of 19.6 billion. The 2008 recession forced catalog companies to cut dead wood out of their mailing lists and get smarter about how and when they mail.

Bonobos mailed a test catalog just over a year ago to a small number of current and potential customers. Results prompted the brand to try several more, gradually increasing circulation each time. Now, some 20% of the website’s first-time customers are placing their order after having received a catalog, says Craig Elbert, vice president of marketing for Bonobos. They spend 1.5 times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first.

Online tools to attract new customers, like display ads and emails, often have just one image or text line. A catalog gives us a bit more breathing room to grab folks’ attention, Mr. Elbert says. We’re able to tell a bit of a fuller brand story.

Bonobos intentionally limits the amount of descriptive text in its catalogs, skipping measurements and care instructions. Mr. Elbert says customers go online for that information.

The retailer has studied catalog responses to understand sales patterns, such as what was driving strong sales of casual shirts. Its first catalog, in March 2013, featured a model wearing a blue-and-green checked shirt with white jeans. Many men ordered both. As a result, the brand now routinely emphasizes full-outfit shots.

Catalogs require months of advance planning and production, presenting seasonal challenges for Athleta, a division of Gap Inc. The athletic-wear brand’s catalogs feature action shots of models wearing the clothes and using the gear. Finding the right setting is essential—and difficult, when the winter catalog must be shot in July.

It’s easy to fake out a yoga studio so it looks like winter, says Tess Roering, Athleta vice president of creative and marketing. But for skiing, she says, we need to go to places that have real snow. The Athleta team is set to travel to New Zealand in a few months.

The Williams-Sonoma Easter catalog features a $39.95 ‘bunny cake’ pan. Devon Jarvis for The Wall Street Journal

Long catalog lead times lock brands into specific products. After Athleta featured blue-and-yellow running tights on its April catalog cover, the tights arrived in stores 10 days late. Catalogs sent shoppers to stores for a product that wasn’t there.

It’s disappointing, Ms. Roering says. Once the tights were in stock, they sold well, she says.

Many retailers can pinpoint exactly when their catalogs land in mailboxes because of a spike in activity in stores and online. We see an immediate sales lift, says John Koryl, president of stores and online at Neiman Marcus. The catalog’s halo effect reaches beyond the contents of the book to the brand’s broader offerings.

Shoppers may not buy what’s on the cover of the catalog. They may not even buy in the category that the catalog covered, Mr. Koryl says. But it is this inspirational moment to remind them to shop.

The average catalog costs much less than a dollar to produce, including printing, mailing, the purchase of new addresses and fees for an outside mailing house or project management, says Polly Wong, managing partner for strategic e-commerce and creative services at Belardi/Ostroy, a retail marketing consulting firm. Response rates and order sizes run the gamut, but typically each catalog mailed results in about $4 in sales, she says.

Breegan Harper, a 22-year-old recruiter who lives in Seattle, gets catalogs including from Anthropologie and J. Crew and browses them while watching television. I can pick up a magazine or I can pick up a catalog, because they are going to both have fashion in them, she says. Rather than toss catalogs directly into the recycling bin, Ms. Harper and her five roommates often hold on to them. We have them out on our coffee table, she says. The cutest ones go in the living room.

WSJD is the Journal’s home for tech news, analysis and product reviews.

Boden, the U.K.-based clothing retailer, ships millions of catalogs around the world each year. Shoppers spend up to 15 to 20 minutes with the catalog, says Shanie Cunningham, head of U.S. marketing, compared with an average of just eight seconds for a Boden email and about five minutes with the Boden iPad app.

To encourage shoppers to spend even more time, Boden adds content to its catalogs, such as a pithy Q-and-A with its models. Some of its recent children’s catalogs include a page of stickers; other catalogs have had sticky tabs that can mark pages with sayings like Must Have or I Need This Now.

More catalogs are tailored for individuals, meaning the one you get could look very unlike the one your next-door neighbor gets. We definitely are targeting and personalizing, says Ms. Cunningham. Boden will change the theme, the size of the book and even the discount it offers to the same address. A recent catalog offered one spouse 15% off and the other just 11% off.

L.L.Bean is playing with the page count of catalogs it sends to regular website shoppers, says Steve Fuller, chief marketing officer at the outdoor and apparel retailer. Many of its catalogs come in different versions. So instead of sending every customer the largest book, Mr. Fuller looks for frequent website visitors and asks, Can I only send her 50 pages, or 20, as a reminder of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to the website’?