Catalog merchant

Catalog merchant

Catalog merchant is a term for a form of retailing. The typical merchant sold a wide variety of household and personal products, with many emphasizing jewelry. Unlike a self-serve retail store, most of the items are not displayed; customers selected the products from printed catalogs in the store and filled out an order form. The order was brought to the sales counter, where a clerk would retrieve the items from the warehouse area to a payment and checkout station. By operating as an in-store catalog sales center, it could be exempt from the "Resale price maintenance" policy of the manufacturers, which can force conventional retailers to charge a minimum sales price to prevent price-cutting competition. The catalog merchant has generally lower prices than other retailers and lower overhead expenses due to the smaller size of store and lack of large showroom space.

The repeal of the resale price maintenance sanctioning law in 1980 meant that chain discounters such as Wal-Mart, KMart could set and change prices at will, in a more consumer- friendly environment where the customer can examine the goods and confirm availability before approaching sales staff. As a result, this retail sector went into decline in the 1980s. As big box stores and internet shopping became increasingly popular in the 1990s, the decline of the catalog merchant business accelerated.

Many companies in recent years have moved away from relying solely on catalog sales, augmenting them with on-line sales or direct retail. The move toward on-line sales includes long-established department store chains such as Sears and JCPenney that relied heavily on catalog sales. However, many long-established catalog merchants have gone out of business in recent years including Best Products, Brendle's, Ellman's, KeyMid, Rink's, Service Merchandise, Sterling Jewelry & Distributing Company and Consumers Distributing. However Houston Jewelry & Distributing Company, a onetime division of Sterling Jewelry & Distributing Company in Houston, successfully retooled the company in 1993 as a traditional jewelry and "fine gift" store called Houston Jewelry, which offered lower pricing on luxury products. It is widely believed by the trade press, as noted in the June 1999 issue of JCK, Jewelers Keystone Circular Magazine, that this was the only successful transformation of a catalog showroom concept into a jewelry & fine gift store.


* [ "Multichannel Merchant" Magazine (Formerly "Catalog Age")]
* [ "Mail Order Blog Offering Information On Various Mail Order Merchants")]
* [ " JCK Houston Jewelry Breaks Catalog Showroom Shackles"]

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