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Canadian Tire returns to print catalogue as part of digital gateway strategy

Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A), after nine years not publishing a physical paper catalogue, has reverted to type and decided to launch what it’s calling its “Wow Guide”, a 200-page paper catalogue that the retail chain mailed out 12 million copies of recently to homes across the country.

If anyone suspects that a return to paper means that Canadian Tire has given up on its recent foray into detail retail innovation, the “Wow Guide” actually represents the culmination of the retailer’s research into integrating the digital and physical worlds of marketing.

The 200-page paper catalogue offers access to a 400-page equivalent digital version, and is aimed at a 30-to-49-year-old demographic, which is both digitally savvy and familied up.

The difference between the “Wow Guide” and Canadian Tire catalogues of yore is that it allows customers access to extra information using the Canadian Tire app, including product videos, ratings, advice, and the opportunity to buy through the app.

Back in 2014, Cantech Letter wondered, “Is Canadian Tire Canada’s Most Innovative Retailer?” (No one joined us in pondering that question, as the new titans of e-commerce appeared set to disrupt the dinosaurs of legacy retail forever.)

This was a reaction to the at-the-time surprising news that Canadian Tire was taking up residency in Waterloo, Ontario’s Communitech Hub, normally the preserve of cutting edge technology-oriented start-ups, and that it had opened a 28,000 square foot data centre in Winnipeg, employing not only IT professionals but also behavioural scientists, called Cloud Nine, that would serve as the digital hub for Canadian Tire’s 1,700 locations, as well as housing an “App Factory” and gamification lab.

Fast forward a couple of years, and several of the high-profile digital retail natives who appeared ready to disrupt the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar model of legacy retail are gone.
The digital natives that have survived, such as Montreal’s Frank & Oak, began opening brick-and-mortar retail presences, and doing counter-intuitively old-fashioned things like publishing a physical magazine.

As for legacy retail, chain stores that failed to invest in digital innovation several years ago, like Sears and the now ironically named Future Shop, are also long gone.
Canadian Tire, meanwhile, thrives.

In 2015, Canadian Tire Corporation’s Chief Technology Officer, Eugene Roman, was named the 2015 Private Sector CIO of the Year, an award bestowed by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), Canadian CIO magazine, and the Canadian CIO Association.

Canadian Tire owns the Sport Check and Mark’s retail chains, and is reportedly exploring allowing consumers to push a “buy” button through Sport Chek’s Facebook page.

Canadian Tire has also been piloting some of its retail experiments at an Ottawa location, such as in-store locker pick-up, which customers didn’t particularly care for.

Canadian Tire shares are up more than 23% since the beginning of January, closing at a record high $146.31 on Thursday.

Profit per share rose to 90 cents from 88 cents a year ago, beating analyst forecasts of 84 cents.
Overall sales were up 0.8 per cent over the previous year, to $2.56-billion from $2.51-billion, despite winter, a massive downturn in the Alberta economy, and the weak Canadian dollar.

Far from resting on its laurels, digital or otherwise, Canadian Tire is setting an example that retail innovators might pay attention to.

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