Online plant sellers say catalogues remain crucial despite the expansion of the internet plant market and fears that the privatisation of Royal Mail will increase distribution costs.
Online business Crocus is about to reintroduce its catalogue after it stopped producing them at the onset of the recession to cut costs.
Director Peter Clay said: "We were concerned about the cash demands of doing a catalogue. We are now in a stronger position and are bringing back catalogues as they were extremely popular with our customers."
Clay added: "A catalogue is a push mechanism and internet is a pull mechanism. A brand is engendered by multiple forms of promotion. Fashion houses still believe in the catalogue - online sales are high but they rely on a catalogue as an important stimulus."
Hayloft Plants director Derek Jarman said catalogues costs between 10p and 12p to produce but can be anything up to 20p to distribute even with a discount, adding: "With the privatisation of Royal Mail, catalogue costs will only go up, but 40 per cent of all our customers come through the internet, which is probably typical of the industry average. We're producing fewer catalogues but will need them for the foreseeable future. Getting rid of them would save a massive amount of money. Long term I think the internet will be our saviour."
Internet sales continue to increase at an average of five per cent per annum across the online plant sector, according to Sutton Seeds and Viv Marsh Postal Plants. But retailers have identified the average age of their customers and the benefit of multiple promotion routes among the reasons why catalogues are still important.
Sutton Seeds horticulture manager Tom Sharples said: "Our average customer is over 65 so they prefer having a paper catalogue." He added: "A lot of people are ordering online but with the catalogue in their hands. We are testing to see how many people we can switch over."
Online v catalogue
According to Viv Marsh Postal Plants, 60 per cent of sales are via the internet and about 40 per cent from catalogues. Viv Marsh said: "Internet sales are increasing between five and ten per cent a year, which shows the growing popularity of online."
He added: "The internet is a wonderful opportunity for growers but we will always need a paper catalogue."