Catalogs and Cocktails

Dear Pier 1,

You almost had me. It was so close. I’m a fan already and purchase from you about once or twice a year. I own the garden parasols, the candles, the bar components, some pillows, and faux flowers, all of which I love. Thank you. I wasn’t hurt that the catalog came addressed to my mother, though I don’t think she has ever bought from you. Hey, you’re prospecting, I get it.

Pier one front coverThe cover was interesting and festive. I liked the peekaboo short cut off that showed a hint of what was to come. The “Our Gift to You” wasn’t close enough to the 20% off that I connected them. It looked like Pier 1 was my gift, which seemed a bit self absorbed till I figured out the discount was my gift.

The opening spread was BEEEuteeful! I was inspired, well done. “Here come the holidays” hmmm, not exactly a call to action, a brand statement, a benefit, an endorsement, a testimonial, or an inspiring bon mot, but the type was pretty and the photo was yummy! There was some type at the bottom of page 2 that explains delivery options, so I’m pretty sure you want me to buy from the catalog rather than just sending me to the store.

Pier 1 opening spread

I started shopping. It was after 5:30, I had had a long day and this was my me-time. Glass of wine in hand, I reveled in the great merchandise and thrilling photography. The design was clean and lovely. All systems were go. I spotted a must have item on page 22-23.

Page 22-23 of the Pier 1 catalog

The glimmer lights—fabulous! I took a sip of wine and read the umbrella copy. Built-in timer you say—do go on. Remote control? I’m in!  And that’s when things went off the rails. I couldn’t read the prices without squinting. It blew the whole boozy woman with available credit vibe you had going for you. I have perfect vision and that type is at best 8pt. I strained and squinted. $11 and some small dots… could be 95 or honestly anything else. Okay, it’s a buck so am I going to quibble? But the remote wasn’t listed. I scoured the page—nothing. Yes, I could get up and check online. Yes, I could sober up and drive to the store. Why are you making me work? You had me. I was the tipsy fish that you hooked, and landed, and then watched flip around in the boat till it got out. Am I going to go to the Pier 1, 15 mins away and find out if I want to buy them? Maybe, if I’m in the area. Your likelihood of getting my money just plummeted for no good reason.

Here’s a bit more food for thought. The catalog size is 7″ x 9 3/4″ that’s too large for a postal discount. You’re paying top dollar to mail a smaller catalog. This is a gorgeous upscale catalog, dressed up like a sale book, at great expense. Increase the size and use the space to make it readable. It does stand out in the mail, though not in a WOW kind of way, and the cover and back cover messaging are both 20% off. The WHOLE BACK COVER, which is a crazy waste of the best real estate in the book. 20% off one item is okay, but it’s not on the entire purchase, it’s just on one item. So I read the boilerplate copy. Blah blah no, blah blah limit, then at the very end “Enter 14-digit offer code above at checkout.” Neither of the two codes above have 14 digits. Its the code on the left. What? You couldn’t help me out with a bit of text that says “Your gift discount”, a colored box, an arrow, a hint, anything? People I’m on my second glass of wine—the credit card is willing, but the brain is running slow. Offer codes only work if customers can find them and this is no time for a treasure hunt.

Back cover of the Pier 1 catalog

For what it’s worth, here’s my advice. Focus on ease of shopping. It matters and customers do read text once they’re interested in an item. Keeping customers on the purchase path is hard, we bob and weave and lose interest quickly. You can have the best merchandise in the world and incomplete information will still kill demand.

Know what makes your merchandise unique and sell the heck out of it. Remote control and timer options were the big benefits of the Glimmer Lights. You told me they were there and then failed to sell them. That’s direct marketing 101.

The truth is that great merchandise is why I shop at Pier 1. I love the idea of a lighted wreath and garland but I don’t have electricity easily available in my 1895 house so the timer and remote are still resonating with me. They solve a problem I have. It was what made the product unique and why I can’t just go to Walmart or Target and get it. I may go to the Pier 1 store near me to get them. (BTW: Good job ink jetting the address of the closest store on the back cover!) But you had me, I was hooked and in the boat. Now I’m going to think about it.

All the best,

Sarah Fletcher
President/Creative Director Catalog Design Studios
Co-founder Catalog University

Did you enjoy this post? Sign up for more.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Catalog Blog covers opinions and information on all things catalog. Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Catalog University is devoted to helping you get ahead in the fun and fascinating world of catalogs. If you want even more information about cataloging, including FREE Pub Talks, be sure to also sign up for the Cat-U mailing list. You’ll get a free copy of The Great Catalog Checklist and we’ll never share your name with 3rd parties.


  • Bill Hamilton

    I loved the email I received about Catalogs and Cocktails. I read the whole thing right to the bottom and thought I’d like to get more emails like this! And then I came to this line:

    Did you enjoy this post? Sign up for more. [jetpack_subscription_form]

    You almost had me. It was so close. Maybe I’ll take the extra time to go to the website and figure out how to subscribe.

    Wait, I’m already subscribed. Never mind.

    • Sarah Fletcher

      Hi Bill,
      Glad you liked it. The bit at the bottom is shortcode for the jetpack signup. It looks great online in the blog post and odd in the email versions. Sadly there’s no good fix for it yet, though I do check every month or so.