Slim-Jim vs. Standard Trim Size Catalog: Pros and Cons

Catalogs known as Slim-Jim’s have been around for many years. They are not new. This catalog format has been popular with business-to-business mailers; not so much with consumer mailers until now. We are seeing more direct-to-consumer companies migrating to a Slim-Jim format to reduce costs.

What is a Slim-Jim? It is a catalog that measures not more than 6” wide or 10.5” tall. It is saddle stitched on one side and it must be “tabbed” with a seal on the other three sides. This is a USPS requirement. The tabs and the trim-size enable the catalog to flow freely through mail sorting machines thus reducing postage costs. Slim-Jim page counts vary. Typical page counts range from 24 to 48 pages or more.

The attraction to a Slim-Jim catalog is reduced postage costs. Comparing the total cost for a full-size catalog vs a Slim-Jim is a little tricky. There is more than postage cost to consider. For example, a Slim-Jim has a higher print manufacturing cost and a printer charges extra to apply the tabs to all three sides of the book. Generally, when all costs are accounted for, the Slim-Jim is approximately $.04 per catalog cheaper overall (assuming an equal number of square inches). The Slim-Jim has a higher cost per square inch of selling space.

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of a Slim-Jim size catalog.

  • Disadvantages:
    • Lower Response Rate – Typically, the response rate from a Slim-Jim catalog is approximately 6% less than a full-size catalog. This is because consumers dislike having to break the tabs to enter the catalog. If the overall square inches of selling space decrease as well, the drop in the response rate could be even higher.
    • Catalog Creative Challenge – Laying out the pages of a Slim-Jim catalog can be more challenging. The page layout is a bit more restrictive.
    • Cost Per Square Inch – The cost per square inch of selling space in a Slim-Jim is higher than a full-size book. Marginal products may no longer make the cut.
    • Life of the Catalog – Slim-Jim’s normally have a shorter life span and a shorter order curve. They don’t have quite the retention value of a full-size catalog.
    • Brand Image – A Slim-Jim formatted catalog can negatively affect your brand image. Some brands can be affected more than others. Upscale brands should beware.
    • Finding a Printer – Some printers are not set up to print and to tab a Slim-Jim. Printer availability can be an issue. Be sure you know a printing company who can do this work.
  • Advantages:
    • Reduced Postage Costs – Because a Slim-Jim size catalog mails at the letter rate, postage is less compared with a full-size piece-rate or pound-rate catalog. Postage costs for a Slim-Jim are in the range of $.38 per catalog vs. $.44 for a full-size piece rate book (estimated costs include actual postage, co-mail charges and freight).
    • Start-up Catalogs – For companies wanting to start a new catalog, Slim-Jim’s are a good way to go.
    • Lower Print Quantities – Many printers have a lower minimum run requirement for a Slim-Jim vs. a full-size catalog format. This is a benefit for start-up catalogers who want to test smaller quantities.
    • Merchandising Considerations – Companies with a more limited product line might not have enough merchandise to fill a full-size catalog. A Slim-Jim format can be a good fit.

Which is better for your business, a Slim-Jim, or a standard size book? While the postage savings is significant, there are other factors to consider. For example, how do your products “look” in a more vertical format design? Is a Slim-Jim with tabs consistent with the image of your brand?

Always best to run an A/B split test before taking the leap of faith if you currently circulate a full-size catalog. It takes work to run a test like this but it’s worth the effort. It can avoid a real train wreck. An A/B split test to the house file and to prospects will determine a difference, if any, in the rate of response, average order size, etc. For start-up catalogs, no testing is necessary. Know before you pull the trigger. Make the best and most informed decision.