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Delivering innovation

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

How the history of mail order can help us think about managing innovation at scale

Image: @buravleva_stock on Freepik

2022 was a record year for home delivery of parcels and packages. After the Covid-19 lockdowns the idea of remote shopping became an even bigger reality and changed the behaviour patterns of millions. It’s a habit which is hard to break — even when there are increasing disturbances in the delivery end of things like strikes and negative publicity surrounding how packages are actually handled and delivered. Estimates of the market size for this activity vary widely but suggest that it is worth close to $500bn worldwide.

But where did this revolution begin and what’s the innovation history behind remote retailing? For that we need to go back a couple of hundred years and locate ourselves in the beautiful hills of Powys in Wales. In the valley alongside the river Severn is the small town of Newtown, a market centre since the 13th century. And in 1856 the home of Pryce Jones, a draper’s assistant who rose to take over the business in which he worked. And for which he had big plans.

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