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Method of merchandising in which the seller's offer is made through mass mailing of a circular or catalog or through a newspaper or magazine advertisement, and in which the buyer places an order by mail, telephone, or Internet. The rise of retail mail-order selling occurred in the late 19th century, when U.S. firms such as Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward built large businesses selling goods primarily to farmers. Its use has grown steadily since the introduction of computerized mailing lists after 1960; it is now employed by tens of thousands of firms, and it reaches virtually every consumer in the U.S.
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