Mail Order Retailing in Britain: A Business and Social History

Hardcover | January 31, 2005

byRichard Coopey, Sean OConnell, Dilwyn Porter

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Since its inception in the late 19th century, Britain's mail order industry both exploited and generated social networks in building its businesses. The common foundation of the sector was the agency system; Sales were made through catalogues held by agents, ordinary people in families,neighbourhoods, pubs, clubs and workplaces. Through this agency system mail order firms in Britain were able to tap social networks both to build a customer base, but also to obtain vital information on creditworthiness.In this, the first comprehensive history of the British mail order industry, the authors combine business and social history to fully explain the features and workings of this industry. They show how British general mail order industry firms such as Kay and Co., Empire Stores, Littlewoods, andGrattan grew from a range of businesses as diverse as watch sales or football pools. A range of business innovations and strategies were developed throughout the twentieth century, including technological development and labour process rationalisation. Indeed, the sector was in the vanguard of manyaspects of change from supply chain logistics to computerization. The social and gender profile of the home shopper also changed markedly as the industry developed. These changes are charted, from the male-dominated origins of the industry to the growing influence of women both within the firm and,more importantly, as the centre of the mail order market. The book also draws parallels and contrasts with the much more widely studied mail order industry of the United States.The final section of the book examines the rise of internet shopping and the new challenges and opportunities it provided for the mail order industry. Here the story is one of continuity and fracture as the established mail order companies struggle to adjust to a business environment which they hadpartly created, but which also rested on a new range of core competencies and technological and demographic change.

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Since its inception in the late 19th century, Britain's mail order industry both exploited and generated social networks in building its businesses. The common foundation of the sector was the agency system; Sales were made through catalogues held by agents, ordinary people in families,neighbourhoods, pubs, clubs and workplaces. Throug...

Richard Coopey lectures in history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Previously he was Senior Research Fellow at the Business History Unit of the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research interests include the history of technology, banking, retailing, and water resources. Publications include 3i: Fifty Yea...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:258 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.77 inPublished:January 31, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198296509

ISBN - 13:9780198296508

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. General Mail Order Retailing in Britain: Origins and Development to 19392. The Evolution of Mail Order Retailing in Post-war Britain3. Working Class Life, Consumer Credit, and the Making of Agency Mail Order4. Mail Order Agency in Post-War Britain: The Agent, the Company, and the Consumer5. Inside the Firm: Mail Order, Efficiency, and Rationalization - From Personal to Organizational Control6. Disconnecting the Personal: Computers and Mail Order7. The Next Shopping Revolution8. Conclusion