By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This holiday season, Amazon announced it will send out a traditional 35-page catalog filled with toys.

Experts believe Amazon is making a bigger play for the toy market now that Toys R US is no longer in business.

According to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the Association of National Advertisers, 42 percent of people read the catalogs they receive in the mail.

So, are consumer catalogs making a comeback? Good Question.

“When we think of catalog, we think of that 400-page from Sears or JCPenny’s,” says George John, a marketing professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. “We’re not talking about that — we’re talking about highly targeted, specialized catalogs that leverage the information they have about you and put stuff in they think you want.”

Catalogs of the past are different from the catalogs of the present.

“What’s old is new again,” says Roshan Varma, a director in the retail practice at AlixPartners, a global consulting firm. His companies coaches clients on how to target their content to different groups of people.

According to USPS and the American Catalog Mailers Association, companies sent out 18.5 billion catalogs in 2006. By 2016, that dropped to 10-12 billion.

Experts say that drop is due partly to the economy, but also because marketers are getting more savvy in who they sent to and how often they send.

“At the end of the day, the company can track whether their catalog expenditures are worth it,” says John.

According to the Hamilton Davison, President of the American Catalog Mailer’s Association, the average catalog costs between 75 cents and $2 to produce and mail.  In its study of clients, AlixPartners found the for every dollar spent on a catalog, the average return on investment is $2 to $4.

“A catalog still demands that unusual attention,” says Davison. “It’s invasive, but it’s welcome.”

Heather Brown