Sep 14, 2023
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Freemans calls time on its physical catalogue as digital response booms

Sep 14, 2023

It’s the end of an era at Freemans. The digital department store has announced it’s shutting down production of its paper catalogue after 118 years with over one billion copies produced.


Having now reinvented itself as a pureplay e-tailer in under three years, the shift to digital-only has been an important one with the number of its online customers continuing to grow, up an impressive 34% in 12 months to over one million (while it’s also seeing 30 million unique visitors annually). That’s helped push overall sales up 13% in the six months to 30 June.

And another difference is clear. Digitally, Freemans offers over 55,000 products (“including dozens of exclusive ranges and partnerships with leading designer brands at high street prices”) compared to a “few thousand” in print. Ditching the catalogue will also save 650 tonnes of paper, the equivalent of 11,000 trees every year.

“The much-loved catalogue once [helped the] careers of top stars including Lulu, Yasmin Le Bon, Lorraine Chase and Denise Van Outen – now [the] hunt is on for new generation of online stars”, said Freemans.

And while saying goodbye to the world of print, on Thursday the retailer also debuts “a new look and feel” for Freemans.com. The shift will be supported by a new digital campaign and TV ads that air from 25 September.

Freemans Chief Executive Ann Steer said: “The… catalogue was a national institution and one of the most successful retails sales tool the UK has ever seen. It was the UK's biggest and the best store catalogues and has served generations of families. 

“However, we need to move with the times, in response to how customers are shopping these days. The transition to digital means we can serve today’s families with even more choice of great value items, all at the swipe of a phone screen.”

Promising “loads more to come,” Steer also introduced a new AW23 offer on Thursday called ‘Curve’, designed specifically to “fit and flatter”.

Pointing to industry stats that show size 16+ clothing is growing at 2.2% each year and 10.1 million UK women wear dress 16 or over (equivalent to nearly 40% of the female population) Freemans has launched the new curve curation spanning thousands of pieces in sizes up to a 32.

Existing range sizes have also been extended to accommodate, including parent firm Otto Group-sourced offerings such as Bonprix, Lascana and Aniston.

Meanwhile the new ‘Freemans’ collection also marks the first time the e-tailer has put its name to a collection in over 20 years and is designed to curate the key styles of the season, available in multiple prints and colourways. 

It’s backed by a new brand initiative called ‘Made You Look’, designed to “stand out and attract attention, to make people look again” through what Freemans calls, “punchy, bright, energetic relatable, down-to-earth and exciting creative that has an inclusive approach to age, shape and size”.

The new campaign will be delivered across all channels — digital and social first, as well as being supported by prime-time TV advertising.

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