Replace the Paper Catalog

Is it really the end of paper catalogs? What to replace them with?

For the past decade, the decline and potential demise of unaddressed paper flyers in mailboxes has been a recurring topic of discussion. In 2022, this issue took on a whole new dimension, as several converging factors accelerated the retail industry’s transition towards a more digitized media mix. While paper has not yet reached its end, some retailers are maintaining their paper distribution plans, others are migrating to digital, and many are opting for a smoother transition… In this article, we invite you to explore the challenges and opportunities of this transformation.

What is the « Oui Pub » system?

The “Oui Pub” experiment was launched on September 1st, 2022, by the French government. This program involves 15 test cities or urban areas, representing 2.6 million inhabitants or 15% of the commercial landscape of large retailers. This initiative aims to reduce the environmental impact of advertising by limiting the distribution of paper flyers in mailboxes. The experiment stems from the August 2021 law on climate and resilience and is inspired by the Citizens’ Climate Convention.


The “Stop Pub” program was launched in 2004, allowing French citizens to opt out of receiving advertising flyers in their mailboxes. It is estimated that this sticker is now affixed to 1/3 of mailboxes in France. With an other approach, the “Oui Pub” sticker, like the “Opt-in digital” sticker, indicates which mailboxes are receptive to receiving flyers.


Paper Catalogs: What is their Environmental Impact?


The negative impact is due to waste more than the medium

The negative environmental impact of paper flyers mainly lies in the fact that a very significant portion of these catalogs are thrown away without even being consulted. The energy and raw materials used for their production are then wasted, and their “impact” is greatly reduced. It is on this main issue that the battle is being played out today, that of the best environmental ROI between the production of promotional communication and its impact on store traffic.


42% of consumers believe that paper catalogs are a form of waste.


Source : ADEME

A Global Movement towards More Eco-Responsible Distribution

It is important to note that this initiative is part of a more general trend to promote more environmentally friendly business practices. Indeed, many companies are now looking to adopt eco-responsible practices in order to meet consumer expectations in terms of sustainable development. The end of paper flyers, like the end of the distribution of disposable plastic bags at checkout in its time, therefore a fight initiated by large retailers ahead of legal obligations.


Before 2023, The flyer was



paper flyers: increasingly costly

The paper medium itself is much more expensive

The possible adoption of the Oui Pub program across the entire country is not the only factor encouraging retailers to reduce or decrease their volumes of paper flyers. Indeed, the price of paper has more than doubled in a year, rising from €400 to nearly €1,000 per ton by the end of 2022.


Source : Alliance de la presse d’information général (APIG) les Échos October 2022

Numerous reasons explain the rise in paper costs

oui pub

oui pub 2


Are retailers’ promotional sales at risk?

Large retailers are very dependent on promotions as a traffic generator

Promotion is THE first factor in store attractiveness. Indeed, according to Madame Benchmark, “all food retailers ensure that if they do not distribute the planned flyers for the week, the results will be felt. They then record a 25% to 30% decrease in turnover.” This idea is confirmed by the Kantar World panel e-commerce mag study: “Promotion in supermarkets generates an average of 9% additional traffic and 13% additional turnover.”

A risk: seeing customers go to the competition

The French consumer are very volatile, and the period of inflation on food products further reinforces the automation of the purchasing process. When purchasing power is tight, retailers respond with promotions and must work on their price image every day. The catalog is the king of this exercise, it allows the consumer to instantly compare between the different stores in their catchment area and each week it activates competition.


In large cities, where convenience stores are scattered in the surrounding streets, there is no need for flyers to compare brands. This explains how easily Monoprix has eliminated them, unlike rural and peri-urban areas where the journey to a store is decisive. People living in rural areas are even more attached to this medium. Retailers could find themselves in difficulty if they were unable to transpose their uses to e-catalogs or to be reached by other digital devices.


70% of French people consider the flyer to be the best medium for optimizing their purchasing power.

67% of French people find catalogs useful or very useful.


Source : La revue du prospectus

What Media Mix to Replace the Paper Catalog?

Abandoning the paper catalog medium is a real challenge for retailers who must anticipate customer needs while mastering legislative, economic, and ecological stakes.

To equal the impact of the paper flyer while reducing energy consumption required, digital commercial communication devices will need to master ultra-surgical targeting and personalize their offers.


Each retailer is currently operating new strategies to rethink their communication device, which until now revolved solely around the catalog and its construction.

Discover more about this in the META conference on May 5, 2023 on “the digitalization of the catalog” in which Rodolphe Bonnasse, CEO ARISTID, will present the different perspectives on the new media strategies and the data necessary for their operation

Découvrez la conférence méta sur la digitalisation des catalogues

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