7. houses not always business is usually thought of as big business. It is big business in the aggregate, and many of the units in it are exceedingly large. Nevertheless, it is a mis take to think that mail-order selling is confined to a few great, well-known houses, or that the problem of mail-order competition for retail stores involves only the activities of great corporations. There are many thousands of relatively small houses which do busi ness wholly or partly by mail. Their business is solid, steady and growing, and must be taken into consid eration. Mail-order selling is not centered in Chicago or New York ; it is to be found everywhere. There is scarcely a town in the country that does not make sales by mail, and on the average the business of the man who sells wholly or partly by mail is probably not larger than that of the average retail store. The mail order business is made up of innumerable units—not of two or three or a dozen. It must be considered as a general activity and not as an exceptional expres sion of an occasional and freakish idea in marketing.
8. Kinds of mail much selling by mail is on a comparatively small scale is shown by a consid eration of the many different kinds of business houses that sell in whole or in part in this way. First, there are manufacturers who sell all their product to con sumers or dealers direct by mail, or who combine mail orders with some other method of selling. Second, there are retailers who may buy all their goods, and sell them entirely by mail or partly by mail, and partly over the counter, or by means of canvassers, or who may manufacture some of the goods that are later sold by the mail-order method. The two largest Chicago catalog houses are manufacturers on a con siderable scale, altho for the most part they are middlemen. Thousands Of retail stores the country over welcome mail orders. Most of the mail-order advertisements appearing in general magazines are those of manufacturers seeking to deal directly with consumers. The source of supply for the things that are sold by mail is not important, for the competitive problems and the economic significance of mail-order selling are the same whether goods are sold by manu facturer or dealer.
Third, there are jobbers doing an increasing busi ness by mail, but their activities do not contribute greatly to what is known as the mail-order problem.
9. Why goods are sold by considera tions induce dealers or manufacturers to sell by mail. Perhaps the most important is advertising. Until business men recognized that large numbers of people could be reached flirt' the printed word, there was no mail-order selling. Closely allied with advertising in
the encouragement of sales by mail is the increased rapidity, security and cheapness of transportation and communication. Another thing is the increasing difficulty of obtaining the cooperation of dealers in pushing new lines of goods. In former times there was plenty of room on dealers' shelves for new goods ; nowadays the shelves are crowded, and a new competi tive line is often established thru "regular" channels only with the greatest difficulty. The manufacturer of such a line is tempted to "go direct." This temp tation is the greater because of the complicated prob lems of trade relations—price maintenance, for in stance—which are likely to be encountered when sales are made thru retail stores. Costs of selling thru dealers are constantly rising, a fact which adds to the temptation to sell by mail. It is a popular, altho fre quently mistaken, assumption that it costs little to sell by mail. Many dealers rush into mail-order selling without adequate knowledge of costs, tempted by the fact that it looks easy, only to find to their regret that their hopes of low costs and large profits are illusions.
10. Who is a "legitimate" years ago the mention of mail-order advertising suggested "cheapness"—cheap magazines, cheap advertisements, cheap goods. Tbe so-called "mail-order publica tions" were usually of low grade, filled with all sorts of questionable offers of tricks, games, agents' outfits and other things designed to appeal to the unso phisticated. Today the meaning of mail-order ad vertising and mail-order selling is entirely changed. The mail-order business is now recognized as a very real and a very important factor in retail competi tion. Because of its strength it is respected by all, and because of its success it is feared by many.
In the discussion of selling problems we hear the expression "legitimate dealer." A business magazine asked retailers: "Do you think it is good business for a manufacturer of advertised goods to place his line with everyone who will carry it, or should he try to protect the legitimate dealer?" Who is the "legiti mate" dealer? The "legitimate" dealer ought to be anyone who sells honest goods in an honest way, and who serves the public. Some retail store owners, however, maintain that the specialty retail store deal ing over the counter is the only "legitimate" dealer. To them all other forms of retail competition are "il legitimate"— the department store, the chain store, and more than all the others, the mail-order house.