Forty or so years after I did the same thing with a Sears holiday catalog, and about a month after that iconic retailer filed for bankruptcy, my own children — raised in the age of Amazon and e-commerce — thumbed through the tech giant’s first-ever printed holiday catalog.
Titled “A Holiday of Play,” the 70-page booklet arrived in the mail this week and it feels a lot like a throwback to an era before everything was shopped for online. Billed as “Amazon’s ultimate wish list for kids,” the catalog is full of hundreds of top-selling items for kids of all ages.
“Amazon is excited to offer a new way for customers to shop for toys this holiday season,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to GeekWire.
While nodding to traditional retail with a seemingly antiquated shopping experience, the catalog does offer a few gimmicks that tie it back to tech. Namely, on the third page there are directions on how to use Amazon’s app to heighten the experience. There are also QR codes throughout, which can be scanned with a smartphone and will take users to related items on Amazon’s website. Using camera search in the app and pointing it at a product image will also allow you to quickly add an item to your cart.
You’ll also want to have your phone handy if you want to learn the price of anything in the printed catalog. The entire booklet is free of prices, and instead just offers product item numbers. Amazon encourages shoppers to visit its online toy list for the most up-to-date prices.
That missing prices detail was not lost on my 11-year-old son.
“Is everything in here free?” he asked, looking wide-eyed at the video game section.
Along with his 5-year-old sister, the two spent about 20 minutes tugging at the catalog for the best view. Here — just a few weeks from peak holiday shopping season — are a few of the best reactions I observed from two kids who weren’t in front of a device, but rather an actual printed page:
- “Ohh, Nintendo Switch!”
- “Where are the prices?”
- “I think I might need some wireless headphones.”
- “Ooh, ‘The Incredibles!'”
- “Mama, look, almost everyone has these hand thingies. You put them on your hand and they can do a lot of things.”
- “I want to get the Nerf gun.”
- “Turn it to the girl page.”
- “I really like all of these toys that it has in it. I like all of the Lego sets.”
- “It’s fun seeing what you can get.”
- “There are two things I really want: the Nintendo Switch, wireless headphones, and a Nerf gun.”
As a kid I spent hours circling toys and sports equipment in the Sears catalog. The thing was massive. And I’m pretty sure my mom used a good deal of what I picked out as ideas for Christmas shopping.
Amazon has provided a blank “wishlist” at the front of the book — with 10 lines for kids to write down what they want. There is also a page of stickers so kids can stick them on pages throughout.
The catalog is shipping to millions of customers, and will also be available for pickup at Amazon Bookstores and some 4-star locations. You can also view a PDF of the whole thing.
The catalog offering does make sense when considering Amazon’s continued moves into what would seem like old-school, physical retail spaces. The 4-star concept, where shoppers can pick up well-reviewed items, joins other brick-and-mortar retail such as Amazon Books, Amazon Go, AmazonFresh Pickup, Amazon Pop-Up stores in malls, package pickup storefronts and of course Whole Foods Market.
My son ended up summing up how many of us probably feel, no matter what device or outlet we use for gift ideas and gift giving:
“Ugh … I’m overwhelmed.”