An analysis of printed catalogues – Part 1: Pricing

10 years ago, as a booker of unaddressed mail, I worked closely with PMP (Target), Salmat (Woolworths), Dominos, the Australian Government and Electoral Commission et al to plan and lodge their catalogue and leaflet drops. And a mere 9.5 years ago I was managing the products and pricing, design, print and distribution of a national retail store catalogue.

Quickly learning the process inside out and optimising the bejesus out of it, I soon grew bored and decided to learn a new discipline.

And thus, it has been almost a decade since I’ve cared in the slightest about paper-based catalogues. What changed? We recently moved into a “real house” and acquired a full sized residential letterbox, with an attending influx of… I won’t call it junk. But frankly, I’ve been horrified at the sheer quantity of paper delivered into said mailbox.

Two days before Father’s Day, when my kitchen bench was overflowing with inches of unread waxed paper I decided to start cataloguing (ha!) the items we’d received. The unaddressed mail collection featured in the next couple of posts is only 2 x weeks worth – and i only photographed one page of each item if that (eg I didn’t capture any of the smaller postcard sizes, DLs or loose leaf items/flyers) and many of these catalogues are 10pp+.

Here are my thoughts on what’s the same and what has changed in the last decade.

First up: Pricing

1) Using wholedollars

Thankfully, the Reject Shop, Coles, Woolworths, BigW, Mitre10, BWS, Cheap As Chips and KMart catalogues are finally admitting that $2.99 and $3 are precisely the same thing! No one falls for that 99cents-is-so-extremely-cheaper-than-a-dollar psych trick anyway these days.

I love the ease of presentation in wholedollar pricing:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy Print - Reject Shop

Reject Shop catalogue – neat, sparse imagery and simple pricing… reject paying one cent less

Catalogue Marketing Strategy Print - Coles

Coles catalogues – neat prices in whole dollars

Catalogue Marketing Strategy Print - Woolworths

Woolworths catalogue
(apologies, WordPress won’t let me rotate image)

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Mitre 10

Mitre 10 – has moved onto the whole dollar amounts (still a few number 9s though). Neat layout.

Catalogue Marketing Strategy Print Pricing - BWS

Catalogue – BWS whole prices, using zeros and product diversity

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Cheap As Chips

Cheap As Chips – catalogue with simple wholedollar pricing

2) Different products, same price

KMart simplifies the messaging even further, showing one pricing bubble for different goods in the same price range (shorts and thongs, both $10)… And a single price bubble for a vast range of colours:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Kmart

Kmart catalogue – simple whole dollar pricing across range of colours


Not everyone has come to the “stop the 99c farce” conclusion yet – many still resort to the old 99c tactic, including my good friends at Aldi and OfficeMax:

Catalogue Marketing Print Pricing Strategy Aldi

ALDI catalogue – still using ninety nine cents in print advertising

Catalogue Marketing Strategy Print - Office Max

Catalogue – Office Max still using ninety nine cents print advertising

The front of the Fantastic furniture catalogue was almost a “clean” look & feel, using good-looking whole dollars (but still ending in 99) for big ticket items:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy Print Pricing - Fantastic Furniture front page

Fantastic Furniture catalogue front page

But then the cluttered layout inside was not so Fantastic:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy Print Pricing - Fantastic Furniture

Fantastic Furniture… not as fantastic inside

3) Ending prices in something different

Others, like Radio Rentals have cleaned it up slightly by displaying Zero cents (unnecessary in my opinion, but maybe it’s a type of full disclosure, perhaps required when it comes to locked-in long term rental plans):

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Radio Rentals

Radio Rentals – whole prices, but showing the zero cents… and offering rental bonus prizes for sign up

Perhaps even stranger, some retailers are beginning to resort to 98cents over wholedollar. Yes, 98.

For example Serenity Nursery:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Serenity Nursery

Serenity Nursery – no longer 99 cents… every price is 98cents!

Or Dan Murphy’s with a rounded recurrent 90cents:

Catalogue - Dan Murphy's marketing strategy print advertising

Catalogue – Dan Murphy’s dollars and ninety cents print advertising

Both slightly interruptive & admittedly they don’t cause *quite* the same blindness as 99c… But I wouldn’t recommend as a compelling pricing strategy. 2cents isn’t that different to 1cent. How dumb are consumers really?

But then again, pricing that appears completely random and immemorable, similar to this Bunnings brochure seems even more difficult to understand:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Bunnings

Bunnings – random busy prices

And I’m assuming super cluttered pricing like Super Cheap Auto would be ineffective as customers would feel unable to compare prices (it’s too hard, therefore assumed unfair):

Marketing strategy print advertising - SuperCheap Auto pricing

Catalogue – SuperCheap Auto has super cluttered pricing

8’s in whole dollars may work better in large numbers though – Dick Smith is ending these prices in 8 rather than 9, which seems to be sufficiently magic eye tricksy for 148 and 178:

Catalogue - Dick Smith nice neat font, whole prices, Father's Day copy

Marketing strategy print advertising – Dick Smith

4) The pricing promise

And Dick Smith also uses pricing promises, committing to their cheapest prices “ever”:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Dick Smith

Dick Smith – Dick does deals, our cheapest ever… number 7 makes an appearance!

Which I find interesting when compared with Harvey Norman’s catalogue front cover, which has no prices whatsoever – relying instead on whitegoods with name brand trust & a stated willingness to haggle:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Harvey Norman

Harvey Norman – name brands (recognisable logos), trust based and best price/matching guarantee

5) Percentage discounts and cashbacks

Whereas Spotlight tries a different tack again, displaying percentage discounts in large font with prices at an appropriate size for ants:

Catalogue Marketing Strategy - Spotlight 2

Spotlight – party season come early, large discounts, small features/info and prices

Another decade-old pricing trick still being used by some = fiendishly complicated cashback offers.

Using this Myer catalogue page as an example, here’s a question that is probably included in the Defence Force Naval Officer entry level IQ test:

– Now only $$
– After $$ cashback
– You pay $$
– Which is a saving of $$

Q: How much does it really cost?


Catalogue Marketing Strategies - Myer

Myer catalogue – complicated pricing inc cashbacks and savings

6) Comparisons

Another thing that’s a little consumer-law-risky (but can be done effectively) is comparative pricing. Obviously this isn’t a catalogue (my excuse = I photographed in-store point of sale posters, but it *was* during the same week as the catalogue cataloging) Aldi’s nappy and olive oil price comparison is quite compelling for the budget conscious.

Not inaccurate or insulting to the competitor name brand, I think ALDI have done it quite well:

Catalogue - ALDI comparative price nappies wall poster instore POS

ALDI comparative price nappies wall poster instore POS

Catalogue - ALDI comparative price olive oil wall poster instore POS

ALDI comparative price olive oil wall poster instore POS


4 thoughts on “An analysis of printed catalogues – Part 1: Pricing

  1. I had no idea that anyone had the patience to read and catalogue these catalogues. You have made me look at them in a new way.

    Really though, I would much rather read them online and opt out of having the buggers in my mail box, hanging out of the slot making my actual REAL mail damp and unreadable.

  2. Very interesting! I have been throwing away my catalogues without even taking a second glance. Now I am going to be looking at them to find similar changes if any. Good blog as usual!

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