Catalogue sales boom for high street giants

BRITAIN'S MAIL ORDER market is on the brink of a substantial surge in growth as retailers, such as a Marks & Spencer and Arcadia, enter the market, according to a fresh report published today.

The report, from Verdict, the leading retail consultancy, says that the traditional mail order houses such as Littlewoods and Great Universal Stores have been spurred on by these new entrants to offer more innovative direct marketing catalogues.

New catalogues such as La Redoute, Select and The Book, are targeting people outside the traditional agency market, and can compete directly with the high street, providing a stimulus for strong growth.

Verdict says more providers are likely to follow the example of Next, which offers home shopping under the same brand name as its high street outlets.

Firms using the traditional agency route, which still makes up just over half of all catalogue sales, are taking an ever-decreasing share of the market.

"Home shopping has for too long failed to realise its potential as a convenient form of shopping. The key was the weak brand identify of the traditional mail order houses and the downmarket associations. The entry of high street retail brands will widen the reach of home shopping and make it more acceptable," Verdict said.

The UK home shopping market grew by 7.9 per cent last year to pounds 8.2bn, largely as a result of the entry of companies such as M&S and Arcadia.

Direct catalogues were the main driver, showing 15 per cent growth. GUS remains the market leader with a 24 per cent share, followed by Littlewoods and Grattan.