VWR International: Synergy in Action
We are the largest store in the world doing an exclusive mail order business. We occupy 25 acres of floor space, employ 2,000 clerks and have 2,000,000 customers who buy from us by mail. From 15,000 to 35,000 orders and letters come to us daily. Our average daily shipments are: 2,500 packages by freight, 4,000 by express and 6,500 by mail—a total of 13,000 packages daily. ... We have just issued a new catalogue—No. 68—the largest, finest and most complete book of its kind ever published. It contains 1,200 pages, 17,000 pictures. It gives wholesale prices and truthful descriptions of 70,000 things.
—Montgomery Ward Catalog, November 1900
At the end of the 19th century, Sears and Montgomery Ward were locked in fierce competition to put an entire department store on the kitchen shelf of every consumer in America.
No matter where in this vast country you were, you could hand an order to your local letter carrier and expect to receive anything from a pair of socks to a horse-drawn buggy by return post.
Plumbers, farmers, building contractors, carpenters—all could get the needed tools of their trade from Sears or Ward’s. These behemoths in print were treasured by consumers and businesspeople as gateways to a better life. Indeed, in rural settings they were windows on the modern world.
Today the idea of a permanent catalog—something that is kept, referred to and discarded only after the new edition arrives—has gone the way of the buggy whip and pinch-waist corset.
Or has it? While Sears and Ward’s catered to consumers, farmers and tradespeople, VWR International offers one-stop shopping for scientific research laboratories. Prowl through its North American 2,600-page, hardcover catalog, and you can find cabinetry and shelving, microscopes, incubators, chemicals, recorders, wipers, centrifuge tubes, pipet tips, and safety equipment. Price points range from $6.60 for a pack of 100 stoppers to $25,000 for a freeze dryer. In fact, buyers can equip an entire facility with products from VWR.