Mail order in the United Kingdom c. 1880-1960: How mail order competed with other forms of retailing

Richard Coopey, Sean O'Connell, Dilwyn Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The history of general mail-order retailing in Britain has a distinctive trajectory. Though there were some important similarities, companies like Empire Stores, Great Universal Stores and Littlewoods did not simply replicate the Montgomery Ward/ Sears, Roebuck model. British mail-order retailing was shaped in response to the requirements of an urbanized market where less affluent socio-economic groups predominated and relied on credit sales and local spare-time agency to an extent unmatched elsewhere. During the period c. 1900-60, mail order's share of total retail sales grew at the expense of conventional outlets. The ability of the mail-order companies to compete successfully in this period is explained largely in terms of their role as credit providers and the efficacy of an agency system that allowed them to exploit pre-existing social networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-273
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Competition
  • Credit
  • Mail Order
  • Retailing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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