The Catalogue Nuisance
THE ISSUING of expensive catalogues by jobbers has grown to be a most objectionable feature in the jewelry trade, and was never carried to greater excess than during the year just past. Some certain jobbers have displayed an amount of ingenuity and smart business tact in getting out voluminous catalogues to serve as advertisements for themselves, without incurring any expense that would do them credit if employed in some more legitimate enterprise. Having in stock goods purchased from a multitude of manufacturers they notify each one that they propose to issue a catalogue, and to include therein illustrations of the goods manufactured by him; he is asked to forward the cuts for the illustrations, or if he has no cuts the jobber offers to have them made. As manufacturers seldom do have cuts on hand, the jobber goes ahead and has them made and charges them up to the manufacturer. Frequently the manufacturers are asked to make direct contributions to defray the expense of publishing these catalogues, and are expected to respond in sums varying from $10 to $200. In some instances the manufacturer is left no option in the matter; the jobber goes ahead and gets out a catalogue to suit himself and then assesses each manufacturer a proportion of the expense, and without so much as asking permission charges the amount up on his books. This practice has grown into a gross abuse; it is little better than levying blackmail upon the manufacturers, for if they refuse to allow the charges thus made against them the jobber withdraws his patronage. When half a dozen or more jobbers attack a manufacturer in one season the tax becomes considerable of a burden, while the catalogues thus issued are for the sole glory and profit of the party issuing them. They do not bring a dollar's worth of custom to the manufacturers who have to foot the bills, for they are not circulated among the jobbers who are their patrons, but among retail dealers and outsiders who buy from the jobbers. Instances are named where the persons getting up catalogues in this way have derived a handsome surplus over and above the cost of printing from the assessments levied on the manufacturers.
In addition to this practice being an imposition upon the manufacturers, its effect is to make a discrimination against those jobbers who do not get out catalogues, but advertise in some other way and pay their own bills. The catalogue publisher who is sharp enough to make the manufacturers pay for their advertising have just so much the advantage of their competitors, and the latter would be justified in demanding from the manufacturers an additional discount sufficient to even up the account. This little game has been successfully played for a number of years, but manufacturers are beginning to see the injustice of it and are not likely to encourage it to any great extent in future.
Jobbers' catalogues are supposed to be issued for the information and benefit of the retail dealers, who are supposed to glean from their illustrated pages much valuable information regarding styles and designs in jewelry. As a matter of fact they are misleading and deceptive, and the retail dealer who accepts them as his guide will find himself far behind the times. It is impossible for a jobber to issue a catalogue that will give any idea of the latest novelties introduced. Styles are constantly changing, and by the time the jobber has received new goods, had cuts made, arranged his catalogue and had it printed, months have elapsed since the goods were new and fresh, and by the time the retail dealer reads about them in a catalogue they have gone out of date. This phase of the business was especially commented on during the past season by many distant dealers who visited New York for the first time. They found the variety and styles of goods then popular very different from what were represented in the jobbers' catalogues they had received. The impossibility of representing fresh novelties in catalogues issued once or twice a year will be apparent to anyone who stops a moment to think how much work and time must be expended in the preparation and printing of such volumes. We have received numerous protests from retail dealers against jobbers' catalogues; they complain that they are not only misleading to them, but when sent out broadcast they encourage the outside trade to ignore the retail dealers and send orders direct to the jobbers. It is bad enough when the catalogues are confined to retail dealers, but when the jobbers send them out to every address they can find the evil is greatly magnified.
In what we have said here about catalogues we do not refer, of course, to such as are issued by manufacturers of materials, tools, etc.; it is essential to the trade that such catalogues should be issued; but we refer exclusively to the hodge-podge catalogues got out by jobbers, representing goods made by various manufacturers, which goods are neither new nor fresh when the catalogue is distributed. Many a dealer has been loaded down with old styles of goods that were unsalable in consequence of having made up his orders from catalogues. They may sometimes help a jobber to work off his shop-worn stock, but they are not to be trusted as guides for buyers. If the manufacturers who have been victimized by this catalogue nuisance, and the retail dealers who have been misled by it, will persistently discourage the catalogue makers in the future, this abuse will be speedily consigned to oblivion. There are other and better ways of advertising, and more direct and legitimate methods of reaching the retail trade.