Woolies puts catalogue on pause for digital savvy

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Part of one of Australia's biggest print jobs will be put on pause from this week, as supermarket giant Woolworths is halting its catalogue printing for at least 12 weeks in areas where it has higher digital engagement with its customers.

Paused for the digitally savvy: Woolworths catalogue

Brendan Straw, chief sales officer at Ovato, who prints the Woolworths catalogue, said, “The team continues to work closely with Woolworths Supermarkets to optimise their catalogue programme based on data showing where the medium drives a return.

Partnership: Brendan Shaw, Ovato
Woolworths committed to channel: Brendan Straw, chief sales officer, Ovato

“While there have been some reductions on a trial basis, Woolworths remain committed to the channel, and continues to produce more than 5.5 million catalogues each week.”

Speaking to Print21, a Woolworths spokeperson said, “We’ll continue to offer our printed catalogue alongside our digital version for the foreseeable future, so our customers can access it in the way that works best for them.”

Woolworths has seen an increase in usage of its website and app, and is trialling a digital-only service in regions where usage has been heaviest. It says the trial will “help us gain further insights from customers in those areas on how they want to be informed about their weekly specials”.

The move comes six months after rival Coles decided to can its letterbox catalogue entirely. Printed at IVE, the Coles job took around 10,000 tonnes of paper a year to produce. Woolworths will be similar, as the two catalogues were the biggest print runs in the country. For IVE the loss represented around $35-$40m off its annual revenue. Rival grocers Aldi and IGA have given no indication they are thinking of dropping their catalogues

Woolworths will reassess after the 12 weeks to see if the no-show of the catalogue in the letterboxes of digitally savvy consumers has hit sales significantly.

Woolworths has not yet said where the printed catalogue will no longer be distributed to, but it will likely mean some parts of capital cities will not be receiving it. Woolworths did stop printing its catalogue for a month early last year, when the onset of the pandemic caused panic buying at supermarkets, rendering weekly promos irrelevant, but brought it back as soon as stock levels were replenished.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Print21, “We know how important value and specials are to our customers right now. As more of our customers turn to our website and app to shop, we’re trialling a pause on the delivery of our weekly printed catalogue in a select number of areas where our digital catalogue has proved most popular.

"Customers in these locations can still pick up a copy from their local store, as well as viewing the catalogue online or via the Woolworths app. Alternatively, customers can sign up to the online catalogue to get it delivered to their inbox every week.

"Featuring more specials than the print version and a bigger focus on meal planning and recipe ideas, we’re delighted with the way customers have responded to our enhanced digital catalogue. As always, we’ll listen to our customers and tailor our approach in line with their evolving needs.”

Printed catalogues are consistently rated as the most effective marketing tool for major supermarkets and retailers. The decision by Coles to close its catalogue was heavily criticised at the time. For the print industry, catalogues represent some of the highest volume jobs in the market. Although Coles has stopped printing its weekly catalogue, rivals Aldi and IGA are still strong users, as are leading retailers such as JB Hi Fi and Harvey Norman.

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