Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Eaton's Presents Christmas Magic

You're looking at a typical 1960s Christmas compilation album that was branded and sold by a department store during the holiday season.

However, this store is probably one you've never heard of... unless you live north of the 49th parallel.

Back in 1869, a young man by the name of Timothy Eaton sold his interest in a dry-goods store and went into business for himself. Finding a store location in Toronto, he opened his first store - appropriately named Eaton's.

Eaton's soon became the largest department store chain in Canada. In many ways, it resembled Macy's - it soon had a Gimbel like competitor in the Simpson's department stores and billed itself as "Canada's Greatest Store".

In a nod to Sears, it began a mail order catalog which doubled Eaton's sales yearly. An old saying in Canada states that "only two books mattered in a typical Canadian home: the Bible and the Eaton's Catalog".

History was made on December 2nd, 1905 when Eaton's sponsored the Toronto Santa Claus Parade as a way to kick-off the holiday shopping season. For several years, Eaton's also held Santa Claus Parades in Winnipeg and Montreal and were hugely successful. It was this success that prompted Macy's to begin its own Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 - the sincerest form of flattery.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Eaton's was North America's most successful and profitable retailer. Back in the 1960s, Canadian Magazine estimated that in Winnipeg alone "more than 50 cents of every shopping dollar (excluding groceries) was spent at Eaton's". It was further estimated that a typical busy shopping day, 10% of the local Winnipeg population would shop at Eaton's.

This album features the standard set of tunes you'd find on a Firestone album. Because most of the lineup of stars (Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Roger Wagner Chorale, The Letterman), this album was undoubtedly issued by Capitol Records Special Markets. Most of the music I already own in my collection. Nothing new.

Eaton's began to suffer financial losses by the early 1970s as poor decisions in real estate and opening new branches of stores didn't succeed. In 1976, Canadians were stunned when Eaton's announced that their Spring-Summer catalog would be its last - very much like when Sears decided to quit the catalog business.

In the early 1980s, an economic recession forced Eaton's to tighten its belt further. They quit sponsoring the Santa Claus Parade, began consolidating stores and operations across Canada, and saw its market share begin to dwindle for the first time, thanks to competitors like Hudson's Bay, Zellers, and Sears Canada.

The shrinking Canadian dollar (sounds like a bad sci-fi movie), a move eliminating all sales (including their famous Trans-Canada sale), and the emergence of Wal-Mart (cue the booing & hissing) began the death knell for Eaton's. In 1930, their market share stood at a dominant 60%. In 1997, when their market share stood at 10.6%, it declared bankruptcy and tried to stay afloat as long as it could.

Two years later, Eaton's were swallowed up by Sears Canada. Sears renamed many of the Eaton's stores to their own, sold other less profitable stores to Hudsons Bay, and tried for a time to keep the Eaton's name alive with a seven store experiment that lasted three years.

In 2002, Sears "retired" the Eaton's name forever, ending an era in Canada. Bummer, eh?


Going out on a high note: This album is STILL available to download from my good Canadian pal Jeff at his website. Thanks Jeff!

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...


Capt

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

merry xmas!