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National Mail Order Catalog Day

To celebrate, let’s look at a few fun facts about mail order catalogs.

  • Depending on whom you believe the first mail order catalog in the US started either 272 years ago, in 1744, by none other than Benjamin Franklin who sold a collection of scientific books, or, in 1845 when Tiffany published its first mail order catalog, the Blue Book.
  • Sheridan’s New Hampshire manufacturing facility began as part of Dartmouth College in 1793, printing newspapers, books, pamphlets and college catalogs!
  • In 1872, Montgomery Ward produced a single sheet of paper to sell its goods to farmers in the Midwest. That catalog grew, not only in pages, but in popularity and soon other retailers realized the potential and jumped on the band wagon.
  • The oldest mail order company that is still in business is Hammacher Schlemmer. It’s first catalog was published in 1881.
  • The iconic Sears catalog was started in 1888 and sold watches and jewelry. Sears stopped producing a general merchandise catalog the Big Book in 1993 and now produces specialty and product specific versions.
  • The L.L. Bean catalog joined the mix in 1912 promoting its Bean Boot via mail order catalog — all from the basement of Leon Leonwood Bean’s brother.
  • In 2016, it is estimated that the mail order industry has revenues in the $129 billion range. Online shopping and traditional brick and mortar stores continue to challenge growth in the industry.

Whether you are a large cataloger, or like many of Sheridan’s customer’s, a small cataloger, catalogs do drive sales and can be a key component of any retailer’s marketing mix. Watch our video to learn how one small retailer’s print catalog impacts their business.