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Fast facts

Mail-order Business Takes Off

Richard Sears was the guiding genius of the new mail-order firm. He knew farmers, understood their needs and desires. Better yet, he could write advertising copy that made farmers send in their money and orders.

While the earliest catalogs featured only watches and jewelry, the new firm by 1895 was producing a 532-page catalog with many other items. This book offered shoes, women's garments and millinery, wagons, fishing tackle, stoves, furniture, china, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages and glassware, in addition to watches and jewelry.

Under Sears leadership, sales in 1893 topped $400,000. Two years later they exceeded $750,000.

Selling, advertising, merchandising - these were Richard Sears' talents, not organizing the company so it could handle orders on an economical and efficient basis. That was left to Chicago clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald, who bought into the company in 1895.

The company's reorganization resulted in Rosenwald becoming vice president. Sears retained the presidency. Suffering from ill health, Roebuck resigned, although the company still retained his name. In 1901 Rosenwald became treasurer as well as vice president. Five years later, needing additional capital, Sears and Rosenwald for the first time sold common and preferred stock on the open market. The company has been publicly owned ever since.

 

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