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Mail Order Retailing in BritainA Business and Social History$
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Richard Coopey, Sean O'Connell, and Dilwyn Porter

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198296508

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198296508.001.0001

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Working-Class Life, Consumer Credit, and the Making of Agency Mail Order

Working-Class Life, Consumer Credit, and the Making of Agency Mail Order

(p.77) 3 Working-Class Life, Consumer Credit, and the Making of Agency Mail Order
Mail Order Retailing in Britain

Coopey Richard

Sean O‘Connell

Dilwyn Porter (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the role of the spare-time agent, from the watch club organizer of the late 19th century through to the working housewife and mother a century later. By the end of the 1930s, mail order retailing had begun to deal directly with the women who held the purse strings in working-class families. Agency mail order only became a significant retail phenomenon when it tapped into the rhythms of working-class women's lives. This was made possible by the creation of systems that allowed for simple credit transactions, founded upon the payment of small weekly sums out of the limited disposable income available in the majority of early 20th-century households. Equally important, the catalogues and payments were administrated by family, friends, or neighbours, who were approachable and understood both the needs and credit limitations of their customers.

Keywords:   mail order retailing, retail industry, Britain, agents, consumer credit, working-class family, mail order agencies, bad debt

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