Founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alva Curtis Roebuck in 1886, Sears & Roebuck out of Chicago soon grew into a successful mail order catalog company. It all began in Minnesota a few years before….
Richard Sears was a railroad depot agent in North Redwood, Minnesota when he acquired a large shipment of watches from a Chicago jeweler that were unwanted by the local store they’d been shipped to. Sears purchased the lot and started selling them to other depot agents. He soon purchased another lot of watches and continued selling them to railroad personnel, which led him to creating a catalog to sell the watches. Within a short time, he moved to Chicago to continue his mail order catalog business. There he met Alva Roebuck, a watchmaker, and the two went into partnership.
Following the steps of their competitor, Montgomery Ward, Sears and Roebuck soon expanded the products they offered. In most rural communities, store owners could set the price of merchandise dependent upon who was purchasing. Cash and good credit got cheaper prices. A catalog with set prices was appealing to people living in rural areas across the nation. Within 10 years, the Sears and Roebuck catalog had grown to over 500 pages and offered a large variety of merchandise besides their original watches. Sewing machines, buggies, bicycles, clothing, dolls, groceries, etc. (even automobiles by 1905), could be purchased via mail order.
As all business have their ups and down, the depression of 1893 affected the catalog business. A large amount of inventory had filled their warehouses, causing the owners to look for alternate options. Eventually, Roebuck turned his half to Sears, who sold it to a new partner, and as the economy picked up, so did the catalog sales, which also led to Sears stores opening across the nation. The company was the largest selling retail store in America until 1989 when it was surpassed by Wal-Mart.
Does anyone else remember receiving the ‘Wish Book’ in the mail? I certainly do. I also think it’s interesting how things cycle around. Ordering (now it’s mainly online) is once again commonplace.
I don’t have an original Sears or Wards catalog, but a friend who does photocopied many of the pages for me to use for research. I use them all the time.
And speaking of ordering online: Harlequin is having a large e-book sale, which includes several of my backlist on sale for $1.99 through October 26th.
I also have a Christmas story being released this week:
Heiress Sara Johnson is shocked when the stepbrother she believed was dead returns to Colorado to claim his inheritance! It might be the season of goodwill, but Crofton Parks seems determined to destroy his late father's empire.
Sparks fly as Crofton and Sara are forced to work together, and soon she begins to uncover the secrets behind his disappearance and need for revenge. But a far more unsettling discovery is the desire he awakens in Sara. This roguish rancher might just claim her heart by Christmas!