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There’s no doubt about it: this generation of youth is more attuned to digital spaces than any in history. But despite being digital natives and online ingénues, they continue to value “paper” in some very specific ways…

When I was growing up, I remember the thrill of getting the Sears Wishbook. Like many kids before and after, I would dog-ear the pages to make Christmas list creation efficient and comprehensive! These voluminous works of commercial art insured that no toys was left unconsidered. As I got older, catalogs continued to play an important role during the holidays. Clothing, room décor, and even the earliest of technologies were easier seen and shown than described in words.

But that was then…And surely, this ritualistic run-through of the catalog must have been made obsolete! But, in fact, today’s households with kids, tweens and teens, and certainly with preschoolers, receive more catalogs than ever. And kids continue to peruse them. What do catalogs offer kids, and why do they remain so precious?

  • A picture speaks a thousand words. As much as the Internet can be visual candy for kids, there’s nothing quite as compelling as a fantasy world, spread across two pages. The Pottery Barn Kidswebsite allows for searching and seeing items of your choice, but only in the catalog can a child (or more likely, parent) imagine themselves in the perfectly appointed bedroom or play space.
  • In an information-heavy world, catalogs curate. While online brands help you pick from among known options, catalogs continue to corner the market on the “at-home” browse. And catalogs from mail-order companies offer interesting and unique items that kids, tweens and teens might not find when they visit their favorite sites. For parents, this is even moreso, as educational catalogs for little kids add Montessori toys, “classic” toys and toys for the brainy child (or the child you hope becomes brainy!) via a veritable buffet of appetizing morsels.
  • Touch matters! It may be easier than ever to create collages online, and there’s little need for teens to print out their photos to show them off. But still, there’s something irreplaceable about the properties of paper. And while this might be the touchscreen generation, paper might be perceived as even more portable. They can move it from wall to wishlist. They can review it even during those “no-tech” times, or in their “low-tech” zones. If anything, paper reviews don’t infringe on screen time limitations. And another benefit? Catalogs come in the mail. Nothing says “you matter” like getting a “gift” with your name written all over it.

Far from having all the answers related to catalogs, we think there’s more to explore. How do the volumes of catalogs that arrive at kids’ doors jive with their environmental sensibilities? Which catalogs break through what can be an overwhelming amount of clutter? And for online brands, is a paper presence a worthwhile investment? We’ll keep our eye on this old but au courant shopping ritual and keep you informed!