Just because computers and the Internet have revolutionized the publishing business, don’t think for a minute that printed catalogs have gone the way of the buggy whip.

Print catalog publishing is alive and well, representing $176 billion in annual sales to both consumers and businesses in the U.S., according to the Direct Marketers Association.

U.S. Catalog Sales ($ in billions)*
  1998 2002 2004 2008 CAGR
2003 – 2008
Total $85.4 $125.8 $141.9 $176.7 5.88%
Consumer $52.3 $76.9 $86.7 $108.0 5.86%
Business $33.0 $48.9 $55.2 $68.8 5.92%
*Source: Direct Marketing Association

Print catalogs are the data and information source that remain the foundation of the automotive aftermarket. Where would parts suppliers, distributors, retailers and service dealers be without the voluminous racks of catalogs that still adorn the counter of most parts and service outlets?

True, most markets and marketers now have e-catalogs, and some have even added other technologies like blogs, DVDs, podcasts, satellite radio, text messaging and alternative portals, to reach customers. But it’s doubtful any of these will ever completely replace printed catalogs; more likely, they’ll all be complementary as the Internet is to radio, television and newspapers.

What’s needed is a very efficient way to reach customers with comprehensive information, presented concisely and in easy-to-understand format with excellent graphics and images that all work to clearly present parts so that parts users and installers can avoid mistakes.

Common standards for information are also needed, so that regardless of position in the value chain – manufacturer, distributor, jobber, retailer, installer or consumer – everyone is working from the same clean, accurate data.

This is to everyone’s benefit, and it is the subject of this special edition of the PIM Report.