While most brick-and-mortar retail companies also sell their products over the Internet, many companies are classified solely as mail order companies. They have no physical store; instead, they take all orders via catalog order forms, phone and web pages, and they deliver their merchandise using the mail. Their products often sell for less than traditional retail stores -- just don't forget the shipping fees.
One of the largest and longest-running mail order businesses in the US is Lillian Vernon. This company sells small gifts and knickknacks of many kinds, from holiday gifts such as Christmas wreaths, to home and garden gifts like decorative banners, trellises and garden stakes.
The Mail Order Catalog for Healthy Eating
The Mail Order Catalog is a small company run by The Farm, an intentional community located in Tennessee. It offers vegetarian food and food products, vegetarian books and yoga supplies through the Healthy Living service. While the Farm maintains a website, all ordering is done by phone or through the catalog.
L.L. Bean has been in business for almost 100 years. Founded by outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean in 1912, L.L. Bean sells outdoors clothes, footwear and gear for people of all ages. The company also sells luggage, gear bags and totes. Though there are few retail locations, L.L. Bean does most of its business by catalog or through its website.
Like Lillian Vernon, Harriet Carter also sells gifts, though the company specializes in more unusual gifts. While Lillian Vernon merchandise tends to look more like small homemade crafts, Harriet Carter sells more humorous gifts, like penguin ashtrays, fanny banks and mugs shaped like toilets. Harriet Carter also offers many useful gifts, such as cookware and bath accessories.
The most unusual mail order company of all may be Archie McPhee. With a company slogan of “Slightly less disappointing than other companies,” it’s clear Archie McPhee does not take itself too seriously. The company sells odd and amusing products, like bacon air freshener, handbags shaped like armadillos, the Instant Excuse ball and 3-D sunglasses, complete with one lens painted blue and the other painted red.
Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.