Catalogue Retailing in Infancy

Dissimilar to a self-serve retail store, a catalogue showroom (store) does not display all items. Customers view products from printed or online catalogues in the store and fill out an order blank.
What is Catalogue Retailing?

Inundated by sky-rocketing real estate prices, expensive labour and low margins which are as scarce as a hen’s teeth, retailers seek succour in alternative retail formats which are not just low cost but can also reach swiftly all across the country. Here, we dig closely to establish the nuances and nuisances of Catalogue Retailing.


What is Catalogue Retailing?

Dissimilar to a self-serve retail store, a catalogue showroom (store) does not display all items. Customers view products from printed or online catalogues in the store and fill out an order blank. The order is then brought to the sales counter, where an associate arranges to retrieve the items from the warehouse or assures to deliver the same at ‘Call and Collect’ centre of customer’s choice upon receipt of payment. Thus, catalogue serves to act as an interface between the product and the customer.


Popularity of Catalogue Retailing

In west, mostly US and UK, catalogue retailing is the most popular mode of selling with many companies preferring only this channel of retailing. The advantage is that one can shop from the convenience of home; it can reach rural areas and places which are not seen as viable options for setting up stores. Moreover, catalogue marketing is a good extension to retail and export business.


Recent upshot of Catalogue Retailing

However, big players like Hypercity and Croma which had entered it with trumpet blasts have evicted as they failed in generating the expected response, leaving other retailers to wonder at its efficacy. But Elvy Lifestyle is still optimistic.


Catalogue Retailing and Elvy

Starting as a catalogue for high-end home décor products in the Indian market, Elvy now has fifteen retail outlets across Delhi/NCR region.


Selling from a long repertoire of office apparatus to garden decor, and from kitchen to bar accessories, to bed and bath gear as also furniture and furnishings, Elvy probably is one of the few brands that hoards every segment of home and beyond to add fashion and elegance to it.


The Elvy catalogue business, unlike other mail-order catalogues, has a unique way of selling. All products are delivered on orders and payments for the same are made on delivery. The customer can accept or reject after getting the feel of the product; nothing is charged in case the product is rejected. This unique service has created a niche for the Elvy catalogue. Elvy is a first-of-its-kind company to introduce an incorporated approach to provide high-end products to the customer through the mediums of shopping catalogue, touch-and-feel shops, and internet mall or web-shop.


Furthermore, the company claims that it observes 60-70 per cent conversion rate from walk-ins at its stores, and hardly gets returns or refusals from its catalogue that reaches over 10 million homes nationwide.


As per Lovy Khosla, Director of Elvy, “The value addition of catalogue retailing to sales is that it provides ease of ordering, products can be viewed any time, store come home so there is no hassle of going to the store”. Laying further emphasis on the importance of presentation he adds, “one has to create a virtual store”.



Another giant Croma, had embraced catalogue retailing with much gusto.  The electronic retail brand from Infiniti Retail Ltd had gained popularity immediately when started and churned 10 per cent sales in addition to the total sales of the company around 3 years back. The catalogue from Tata is since then doing well.


The nosedive of Hypercity Argos

Likewise, even Gateway Multichannel Retail (India) Ltd., a joint venture of Hypercity Retail (India) Ltd and Shopper's Stop Ltd, discontinued its catalogue retail operations under the Hypercity-Argos brand and the decision to discontinue the Hypercity-Argos multi-channel retail business operations, followed the initial two year trial development period, and was taken mutually by Gateway and Home Retail Group, as the business did not meet the planned performance levels, to support the investments required in the current economic climate.


The dos of a successful Catalogue Retailing

Since Elvy is still sailing successfully when others have given up, we asked Lovy his success ingredient.


"Reliability, quality of products, solid logistics and excellent customer service are a few features that constitute good retailing", he explains and adds that, "the future is bright in India; however, the category itself has huge business potential for a company that can deliver".



Catalogue retailing that was expected to take Indian retailing by storm is still struggling to find its feet in the wide horizons of an opportunistic scenario where physical retailing is still preferred, given the attraction of high rise malls, beautiful shops and attractive schemes that retailers are inventing every day to woo consumers to the shops.


The format is in a flux, and signs of trouble are widespread. Expectations remain high. But realities are disturbing. Despite all this, the benefits of Catalogue retailing in terms of cost and convenience cannot be ignored. At this moment of truth, we can only wait and watch its development pattern…

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