After 70 Years, IKEA Says it’s Nixing their Catalog. What?

Word is that IKEA is going to stop mailing its iconic catalog, shutting down their direct mail channel after 70 years.

“The Ikea catalog has become one of the Swedish mega-brand’s best-known products, inspiring people around the world with images of well-designed, accessibly-priced interiors,” writes Elizabeth Segran in Fast Company. “At its peak in 2016, 200 million copies of the catalog were distributed in more than 50 countries around the world, translated into 32 languages.”

According to Segran, the decision to shutter the catalog was made “because media consumption has changed.”

“The ever-evolving COVID-19 situation has posed challenges for our customers to access our stores, but has also created many new opportunities and an acceleration of our e-commerce business,” said Tina Petersson-Lind, Ikea’s brand, range and communication manager.

“Life at home is more important than ever for people. The content will continue, just not within the IKEA catalog.”

It’s a very strange decision in our current world of digital fatigue and lockdown weariness. Other brands are reporting less competition and higher response rates for their direct mail right now, and are taking advantage of the extended life and engagement of mail in the home. Even before the pandemic, catalogs were having a renaissance, playing a refreshed role in the customer journey. And their most recent 2020 catalog speaks right to the heart of catalogs as lifestyle influencers.

It’s baffling. We witnessed this during the 2010-2012 recession. Catalog mailers tried to reach their print audience via digital channels instead of through the mail. Many assumed since their customers enjoyed buying on the internet and would want to spend even more time online learning about new products. We saw many of them successfully return to print a few years later. Since then, we’ve seen digital-only brands like Amazon and eBay launch print catalogs too.

IKEA says they are exploring ways to translate their catalog content into new formats and channels … but they seem to be overlooking the power of catalogs to inspire sales in ways that digital content just doesn’t.

I’ll miss my yearly IKEA catalog.

More importantly, I suspect IKEA will miss it too.