The selling of consumer goods by the manufacturer, or a wholesaler, directly to the public, i.e. by-passing the retailer. Methods of direct selling include: mail order through catalogues carried by part-time agents; the insertion of a pre-paid order in a newspaper, or a magazine advertisement; cash and carry warehouses; Sunday markets; door-to-door salesmen; circulation of sectors of the population on the basis of lists of names and addresses. sometimes bought from firms specializing in the preparation of such lists; parties at which goods are displayed and ordered through the party organizer; and soliciting custom by telephone.
Bypassing the retailer can sometimes be to the disadvantage of the purchaser; not only may he forgo the protection of the sale of goods act (UK) but he loses the benefit of a retailer’s specialized knowledge and advice; he often cannot inspect goods before purchase; he loses the benefit of being able to exchange faulty goods easily, and generally forfeits the useful and valuable after-sales service offered by a retailer. Prices may be much lower, but tend to fall in proportion to the loss of various benefits and safeguards. It should also be remembered that where the sale is effected through an agent on commission, the overheads of the vendor may make greatly reduced prices unlikely unless quality is sacrificed. Nevertheless, despite these various disadvantages, the fact of being able to order goods from an armchair, plus the ‘easy-payment’ terms often offered, have favoured direct selling and the volume of business transacted in this way continually increases.
Sales conducted using the Internet is sometimes regulated by international agreements, but need no be so in all circumstances.
Reference: The Penguin Business Dictionary, 3rd edt.