Circuit City tests catalog channel

Richmond, VA-based consumer electronics chain Circuit City has jumped into the catalog fray with an 80-page back-to-school catalog. The retailer mailed 1 million copies of the book, which sells notebook computers, digital cameras, printers, and home entertainment products such as televisions and home theater systems, the second week of July.

According to spokesperson Amanda Tate, the catalog was meant as a test to complement Circuit City’s more than 600 superstores and its e-commerce site. The company had launched a Website in 1999, which it redesigned last year. The latest incarnation features improved navigation; it also allows for express pickup of merchandise in all its stores.

To measure customer traffic more efficiently, Circuit City also invested in systems to provide a more robust measure of the effectiveness of the company’s promotions. According to its annual report states, “We will use feedback to create more effective advertising, which will drive traffic and sales and also should improve our brand image with consumers.”

Although the company does not break out its online sales, Circuit City says that the channel is growing rapidly. In its annual report, Circuit City says it “remains pleased with the strong growth in this profitable business.” With total annual revenue of $10.5 billion, Circuit City is the third largest consumer electronics retailer in the country, behind only Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

With the print catalog, Circuit City is following in the steps of Best Buy, which in August 2004 mailed 400,000 copies of a 52-page electronics catalog titled Best Buy for Business. Best Buy, like Circuit City, enable customers who ordered online or via catalog to pick up and return the products at stores.

So far Best Buy is pleased with its direct business. “It’s a good strategy to market through catalogs to areas where stores can’t cover geographically,” says Omer Artun, Best Buy’s senior director of business-to-business marketing.