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Extra resources for Retail Nation: Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada
By 1893, Simpson’s had reached department store status, selling not only apparel and dry goods but also carpets, wallpaper, footwear, stationery, books, food, and dinnerware. In 1894 this five-hundred-employee-strong company followed Eaton’s in offering what became a cross-country mail order trade. W. H. Fudger, purchased his business. 2 million in sales annually. 22 Calling itself “Canada’s Greatest Store,” Eaton’s truly became a department store in the early 1890s. With merchandise as diverse as medication, bicycles, produce, meat, dinnerware, sewing machines, hardware, furniture, toys, paintings, menswear, fancy goods, carpets, women’s dresses, and cosmetics, and with 2,475 employees by 1898, the company had earned its self-styled title.
In 1901, the total population of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba combined was 598,169; by 1921 that figure had jumped to 2,480,666. The total number of residents in Canada’s western provinces was not quite half that of Ontario and Québec, which together reached 5,294,172 in 1921, but it was sizeable enough to support the growing presence of mass retail. In British Columbia, which had a population of 524,582 in 1921, Spencer’s was becoming a major operator. 3). With more than nine hundred employees in 1913, Spencer’s Vancouver store was its largest.
Just a handful existed in the dominion prior to 1900, and in 1919 Canada’s three largest chains, Loblaw’s, Dowler’s, and Carroll’s, operated only 36 stores. Yet by 1924 there were 1,200 chain outlets across Canada, and by 1930 there were 13,287. Grocery stores were the most numerous, with Dominion’s and Loblaw’s dominating eastern and central Canada and Safeway’s and Atlantic and Pacific doing the same in the West. Clothing chains included D’Aillard’s and Tip Top Tailors, while shoes were most heavily represented by Agnew-Surpass.