|Macy's Department Store, New York City, 1907|
—As holiday shoppers swarm on malls and stores across the country, many of us will shop at Macy’s or other department stores, but few of us will recall the founders of American department store founders. Who were these men and what innovations to mass merchandising did they foster? And, little did they think 100 or more years later their name would remain household.
Frank Winfield Woolworth
(1852-1919)-- pioneered the now-common practices of buying merchandise direct from manufacturers and fixing prices on items, rather than haggling. He was the first to use self-service display cases so customers could examine what they wanted to buy without the help of a salesman.
(1834-1906)-- Field took an early 19th-century consumer landscape that was centered around the principle of caveat emptor, or "buyer beware", and transformed it into a plush shopping experience fit for the Gilded Age. Unconditional refunds, consistent pricing and international imports are among the Field innovations that became standards in quality retailing. Field's employees were also instructed not to push products on uninterested customers as was common practice in stores of the period. The quotes "Give the lady what she wants" and "The customer is always right" are attributed to Field, though the latter may also be an invention of American-born Harry Gordon Selfridge while employed by Field.
Harry Gordon Selfridge
(1858-1947)-- Selfridge's innovative marketing led to his success. He tried to make shopping a fun adventure instead of a chore. He put merchandise on display so customers could examine it, put the highly profitable perfume counter front-and-centre on the ground floor, and established policies that made it safe and easy for customers to shop – techniques that have been adopted by modern department stores the world over.
James Cash Penney
|James Cash Penney|
—(1875-1971)—Brought mass merchandise department stores to the heartland. There were more than 1,400 stores by 1929.
Samuel H. Kress
|Samuel H. Kress|
—(1863-1955)—Another of the five and dime store innovators. Unlike many businessmen of his day who only opened their stores in large urban areas, Kress wisely located his stores in smaller cities in 29 states he felt had growth potential. These stores became the jewel of many of these cities, which only had a dry goods or general store until then.
Rowland Hussey Macy
—(1822-1877)—Macy founded the huge retail empire that bears his name, but it was the Isidor and Nathan Straus family that built the company to the giant it is today. Macy's expanded into neighboring buildings, opening more and more departments, and used publicity devices such as a store Santa Claus, themed exhibits, and illuminated window displays to draw in customers. It also offered a money back guarantee, although it only accepted cash into the 1950s. The store also produced its own made-to-measure clothing for both men and women, assembled in an on-site factory.
Adam L Gimbel
|L-R: Adam, Frederic and Bernard Gimbel|
examine one Della Robbia
statue they obtained from the Hearst's.
(1893-1969) Frederic Gimbel
(1892-1996) and Bernard Gimbel
(1885-1966)---The idea of a department-store parade originated in 1920 with Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia. Macy's did not start a parade until 1924. Brothers are the sons of founder Adam Gimbel (1817-1896). Saks Fifth Avenue was also one of their early
Aaron Montgomery Ward
|Aaron Montgomery Ward|
—(1843-1913)—innovator of the department store mail order catalog.
|Richard Warren Sears|
Richard Warren Sears--(1863-1914)—In 1886, Sears founded the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He began placing advertisements in farm publications and mailing flyers to potential clients. From the beginning, it was clear that Sears had a talent for writing promotional copy. He took the personal approach in his ads, speaking directly to rural and small-town communities, persuading them to purchase by mail-order. Sears used his watch company merchandising/marketing acumen to launch Sears Roebuck.
|Alvah Curtis Roebuck|
Alvah Curtis Roebuck--(1864-1948)-- At Richard Sears' request, he took charge of a division that handled watches, jewelry, optical goods, and, later, phonographs, magic lanterns and motion picture machines. His business interests did not end with Sears. He later organized and financed two companies: a manufacturer and a distributor of motion picture machines and accessories. Roebuck also served as president (1909–1924) of Emerson Typewriter Company, where he invented an improved typewriter, called the "Woodstock.
|Eben Dyer Jordan|
Eben Dyer Jordan—(1822-1895)-- In 1841, Jordan left his job at a Boston dry goods store and went into business for himself laying the foundation for the first Jordan Marsh. Ten years later, Jordan partnered with Boston merchant Benjamin L. Marsh.
Andrew Saks—(1839-1912)-- Andrew Saks established a successful clothing business in 1867, and opened a store in New York on 34th Street in 1902 as Saks & Company. Andrew Saks ran the New York store as a family affair. After Andrew passed way his son Horace merged Saks & Company. with Gimbel Brothers, Inc., in 1923. On September 15, 1924, Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel opened Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC.
Lyman Gustav Bloomingdale—(1841-1905)-- American businessman who in April 1872, with his brother Joseph, founded Bloomingdales Department Store on 56th Street in New York City.
Bergdorf Goodman--Edwin Goodman, a young 23-year old merchant, based in Lockport, New York, moved to New York City to work as an apprentice for Harry Bergdorf. Within two years, Goodman had raised enough money to purchase an interest in the business, which was renamed Bergdorf Goodman in 1901. In 1906, Bergdorf Goodman moved to a new location on 32nd Street, just west of Fifth Avenue and "Ladies' Mile". While Bergdorf preferred the less expensive side street location, Goodman prevailed with the new location and bought out Bergdorf's interest in the company. Bergdorf would retire to Paris.
Note: The photo of the Gimbel Bros. was taken in 1940. The other photos were taken much closer to 1900 or before when the moustache ruled.
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