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Don’t forget the mail order catalog in August

When: Aug. 18

What: The first mail order catalog was created in 1872 and was printed on a single 8-by-12 inch sheet of paper. That piece of paper changed the face of retail and launched the 128-year legacy of Montgomery Ward. Commemorate this sales innovation on the day the mail order catalog was first delivered on Aug. 18.

Background: Founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872, the mail order business quickly grew in popularity with rural customers who usually had a limited selection of goods in their region. Although the business got off to a rough start due to the loss of his first inventory in the Great Chicago Fire, by 1876 the catalog had expanded to 152 pages featuring approximately three thousand items.

Story Pitch: In 1872, the idea of a mail order catalog was an unfamiliar concept and faced stiff opposition from rural retailers, but today it comprises the backbone of a large number of companies and supporting industries. Any business that allows customers to order via print catalog or online has a good opportunity to focus on what unique elements they offer in a busy mail order market. Depending on what industry you serve or who your customers are, this could be discounts on large orders, cut rate shipping or 24-hour customer service. Montgomery Wards was also one of the first companies to offer “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back,” so be sure to highlight services and considerations that you extend to your customers. The concept of mail order itself made the development of packaging and logistics to individual consumers a necessity. If your company works with clients to design and develop shipping solutions, promote yourself by focusing on how you’ve grown with the mail order industry. What shipping options do you offer that ensure fast, quality delivery to customers while keeping costs down? Web developers and hosts will want to also consider pitching around this day, as online ordering can add another layer of crucial business to a company.

Story Hook: Although the original Montgomery Ward closed in 2000, the brand remains strong and lives on at How can other mail order companies build a brand and earn customer loyalty? Keep the following in mind while making your pitch.

  • How has online retail affected mail order catalogs?
  • Is it effective for a business to have both a print catalog and an online ordering system?
  • What are the most common problems for customers receiving an order by mail?
  • What does a company looking to get into the mail order business need to consider?

Tips: Be sure to provide contact information for people who work in branding strategies or advise companies on improving or developing retail techniques.


Electronic Retailing Association
(703) 841.1751

Express Delivery & Logistics Association
(816) 221-0254

National Etailing and Mailing Organization of America
(207) 885-0090

National Mail Order Association
(612) 788-1673

–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
Event Dates  from CHASE’S Calendar of Events

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