The first mail-order catalogue was published by Chicago based Montgomery Ward & Co. and though the first edition was only a single sheet of paper it began what became a massive global industry.

Ward started the company in 1872 with $2,400 capital and the aim of buying large quantities of merchandise wholesale and then selling it directly to farmers in rural areas without the help of retail outlets. Such an operation would provide goods to farmers at low prices but still yield Ward acceptable profits. To accomplish this, Ward began distributing the catalogue and backed up his sales with a money-back guarantee. By 1904, the Montgomery Ward catalogue weighed four pounds and was distributed to anyone who asked for a copy.

Ward even began opening his own retail stores and the company enjoyed many decades of success. However in 1985, facing increasing competition from many new mail order competitors the company decided to close its catalogue operation and concentrate on its retail operations.

Lack of business direction and the rise of internet retailing led the company into difficulties and in 2000 it announced the closing of its retail stores.

In the UK the brand continues as part of the Shop Direct and Littlewoods Group and Marshall Ward UK issue both paper and internet catalogues.


  1. The World’s First Mail Order Catalogue was published on 18th August 1872 | greatbizinfo - August 18, 2013

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