Sears, Wish Book Christmas 1998

The “big book” concept, an endangered species in the United States, is alive and well and thriving north of the border. Hitting the mailbox at an even 1,000 pages, Sears Canada’s Gold Award-winning holiday compendium defies our panel of judges to imagine a household product missing from the collection. Drum sets? Page 671. Ottomans? Try page 555. Darth Vader? He’s on page 897.

Sears Canada’s phenomenal success with this book certainly begins with its incredible selection of merchandise, but few catalogs of any size maintain a tighter focus on the shopping experience. “Everything is geared toward driving holiday sales,” lauds a judge, “with special pricing promotions and a donation to charity with every purchase. And in many instances, the catalog indicates that prices will go up after Dec. 24, further encouraging Christmas sales.”

The holiday theme pervades every aspect of this catalog, with Santa Claus appearing on the television sets and elves perched atop dishwashers, holding up service reminders and toll-free order numbers everywhere the reader turns.

There’s also a story behind everything, from the customer service testimonials to information on the children’s charities to which Sears Canada donates. Even the cover art is explained, with a bio of the artist on the inside cover. In fact, Sears Canada uses its covers to full advantage, promoting catalog shopping, an affiliated travel service, a nationwide contest, giftservices, and merchandise.

Besides the gift box options and gift certificates highlighted in the opening spread, the Wish Book includes reminders about the gift registry program, the continuing availability and guaranteed prices on selected merchandise, and the Sears Club incentive program. Insets titled “Santa Suggests…” also appear throughout the book, calling attention to special gift items; an entire section lists value-priced merchandise of all kinds; and “half-price,” “save!” and other hot buttons that target the value-conscious shopper show up frequently. And Sears Canada unflaggingly promotes one of the most succinct guarantees in the catalog industry: “Satisfaction or your money refunded.” The Wish Book looks to one judge like “a parade of reasons to buy.”

Apparently the judges aren’t the only ones who feel that way. Sears Canada says that this book was its most successful in 45 years, with a 20% increase in sales over the ’97 effort. Its contest drew more than sales, attracting media attention for the catalog, and generating consumer interest in future Sears Canada catalogs.

With record sales, a growing list of millions of young, active customers, and a remarkably sharp marketing focus, the Sears Wish Book appears poised to continue its momentum into the next millennium.

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