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Byline: MARILYN MUCH
Six years ago, retail gurus saw the Internet as the death knell of catalogs.
Their thinking: Why bother issuing catalogs, which are costly to print and mail, when it's so cheap to showcase goods online?
As it turns out, their reasoning was wrong. The Web has actually helped breathe new life into the direct mail-order retail business. And the catalog hasn't disappeared.
Catalogers have embraced the Web as a complementary sales and marketing venue. They see it as a way to reach more consumers and drive incremental sales.
By selling and promoting their goods both online and through catalogs, players have been able to connect more effectively and more often with existing consumers -- and offer them a lot more convenience to boot. They've also been able to cut costs, provide better service and better manage customer relationships.
"The bottom line is that catalogers recognize (that by embracing the Internet) they can connect with consumers differently in a more tech-oriented society," said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers. "By the same token, the low-tech catalog doesn't go away because it fills the niche of conveniently showing products."
These days, just about every mail-order firm has a shop online.
Take Celebrate Express, a provider of celebration products for families with young children. It uses its branded Web sites, complemented by catalogs, to offer a coordinated assortment of goods.
Some players …