By mail and rail

A history of mail order commerce

Authored by: Howard R. Stanger

The Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138675087
eBook ISBN: 9781315560854
Adobe ISBN:


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Mail-order commerce in Western nations emerged during the last few decades of the nineteenth century, owing to improvements in transportation, communication, postal services, growing population; rising literacy and disposable income, new production technologies and innovations; and entrepreneurs who imagined and created this new retail mode. Despite opposition from small retailers and their allies, the variety and quality of goods, convenience of delivery and the trustworthiness of the main mail-order firms prevailed. The history of mail order reveals similarities across nations in terms of origins, business methods, product mix, customers, infrastructure and chronology. But it also highlights key differences within and across nations over time. Despite changes in technology and competing retail methods, mail-order commerce has continued to deliver goods to consumers into the twenty-first century.

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