Can magazines/catalogues be relevant to Gen Z consumers?

I received a “LifeWear” magazine from Uniqlo the other day that pleasantly surprised me and inspired me to consider if magazines and catalogues could ever be relevant for the standard Gen Z consumer.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Uniqlo for years now, and while I sometimes question their sustainability claims, Uniqlo is by far the best place to go for clothing items that you need but do not have a large budget for. I am always impressed with the quality that I get for such low prices and the majority of my work clothing and about half of my athletic clothing are from this brand.

I ordered a pair of pants from Uniqlo, and in the packaging came the LifeWear magazine. I titled this post with “magazines/catalogues” because this magazine, in my opinion, blurs the line between magazine and catalogue in that it is filled with only Uniqlo products and their item numbers and pricing, yet the content is largely editorial and the focus is primarily on the images and the stories of the people featured within the magazine.

Needless to say, I was surprised that I got a magazine and was instantly brought back to my childhood when I would wait all year for the Toys “R” Us holiday catalogue to come out and I could flip through the pages while folding down the corners to mark the products that I wanted for Christmas.

A few years later, I looked forward to getting the PBTeen magazines as I would cut out the products that I liked and would save them on a corkboard in my room, pretending to be an interior designer. I don’t think that I have received a magazine since that stage of my life, which was probably around ages 10-13.

My first thought was “What ever happened to magazines?”, which was soon followed up with, well, the internet, but something about this Uniqlo magazine inspired to think about whether or not magazines could ever be relevant again for Gen Z consumers.

The LifeWear magazine showcased Uniqlo products being worn on ordinary people styled in ways that I would have never thought of when just looking at the products online by themselves on a harsh white background, and there was something truly intriguing about flipping through the pages of a physical item rather than clicking through slides on my laptop. The content seamlessly aligned with the title of “LifeWear” as each of the people featured in the magazine wore about three different outfits, all catered towards different daily activities yet manyof the products worn had cross-functioning abilities. The magazine of course also featured new releases and upcoming collabs, but overall did its job in that I now have a whole lot more Uniqlo products in my online shopping cart because I found inspiration in the way that these products were worn in the magazine.

Obviously magazines and catalogues disappeared for a few reasons, some being that they’re a large waste of paper and all of the LifeWear magazine content can probably be found online. However, I felt pretty special receiving a well-done magazine, as if Uniqlo had targeted me as a consumer with a high purchase rate who would probably enjoy looking at pictures of their products being worn in real life.

Where I think there may be potential for magazines to become popular again relies solely on how shockingly excited I got flipping through this magazine. It was nice to feel something and to have a companion while I continue to shop online, especially because I don’t live near a Uniqlo store (and those are usually even harder to shop than the website).

Magazines being produced at the rate that they once were will hopefully never happen again, but I do think that a brand creating a magazine twice a year (SS/AW) that is only sent to a select group of shoppers could be of potential impact for a brand. If the magazines could be made from recycled materials or old shipping supplies, that would be pretty awesome, too.

My last point to make is that by focusing on previous consumers that have come back to make repeat purchases, a brand has the ability to strengthen that retailer-consumer bond and increase the customer loyalty. Magazines were distributed to absolutely everyone for higher customer acquisition rates and brand awareness, but maybe a more targeted distribution strategy will be what’s in store for the future of magazines and catalogues.

Published by Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin is a passionate student of the retail industry. Freshly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Retail Merchandising, she will be pursuing an M.S. in Apparel Studies with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies in fall 2020. Career ambitions include writing a formal research paper, becoming a retail writer and reporter, and maybe being a CEO someday.

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