Mail order is a commercial retail enterprise carried on maily by means of mail, whereby customers order from illustrated catalogues sent to them twice a year by post. The catalogues contain general merchandise of every description and the customers receive their orders by parcel post, rail or road. All goods are sent to the customer on an 'approval' basis and on a system of extended credit.
This kind of retail business (which took concrete form in the USA in about 1872) has been established in the UK for over 100 years. However, it is only since the end of World War 2 that it has grown to its present size and importance. It is undisputed that the still continuing growth has improved the standard of living for millions of people. The chief reason for this is that a number of economic factors enable the mail order firms to supply fiest-clas merchandise to their customers on advantageous, convenient terms and still at competitive retail prices. The first great economy is the elimination of a middleman, for almost without exception mail order houses buy from the factory and sell direct to the customer. The big catalogue firms like Littlewoods catalogue, Freemans or Great Universal can buy in vast quantities and can place large orders with factories at a time when the latter would otherwise be slack; not infrequently a mail order house will take over almost the entire output of the manufacturer.
In operating methods also great economies are brougt about, especially in the handling, packaging and dispatching of merchandise. While orders to a mail order house correspond to customers shopping in a retail store, mail order has a great advantage in that the number of orders (or customers) at any given time can be controlled. There is no lost effort or unnecessary cost anywhere, for there are no idle shop assistants waiting for customers nor time to explain, handle or sell. Instead, there is a steady, uninterupted flow of business which is the same at nine o'clock in the morning as it is at any time of the day. The rush hours and slack periods experienced by retail shops are eliminated.
The ease of ordering, the convenience of having goods delivered, the extended credit, all these factors help to explain the growing popularity of mail order shopping today. There are plenty of examples in the current UK mail order and home shopping catalogue market. One of the best known home shopping catalogues, Littlewoods, has a glossy catalogue delivered free to your door or you can see all their products online at www.littlewoods.com. Littlewoods charge nothing for delivery and have a number of fantastic credit options available, from Buy Now Pay Later to 52 weeks interest free credit.
The mail order shopping network also allows you to buy clothing from Europe, with La Redoute from France and now Ellos from Sweden. Shoppers are finding it easier and easier to shop from wherever they like and there are now no boundaries to where you want to shop.