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Consumers use Pottery Barn catalogs to get decorating ideas, research shows.

The catalog comeback continues.

Williams Sonoma Inc., the corporate parent of retailers such as Pottery Barn and West Elm, is using “data mining” to improve its catalogs, CBS News reported last week.

The company wants to determine how life events, such as a new baby or new home, might change customer preferences.

“In the same way we have great artists, we have great data scientists,” said chief executive Laura Alber. “They study the response rate from every customer that we [mail] to.”

Williams Sonoma’s research shows catalog readers spend more money than other consumers. Readers also use catalogs to research purchases and get decorating ideas.

Williams Sonoma joins other companies that are taking a fresh look at catalogs. Among them: J.C. Penney, which recently revived its mailings after discontinuing them several years ago.

Retail consultant Denise Yohn told CBS the trend is driven by the personal nature of receiving mail versus receiving an email.

“The customer feels a bond to the brand, something that isn’t necessarily achieved through a quick TV ad or online,” Yohn said.