Recognizing the importance of Christmas sales, Henry Morgan & Company issued special catalogues annually from at least the end of the 19th century. The earliest extant catalogue (1897) was unusual because it devoted a whole page to a single item or class of items, whether it was for sewing machines, French opera glasses, portable gas lamps, a combination tea kettle and chafing dish that could be brought to the table, or a whole series of toys, from rocking horses to toy stoves to building blocks. It also featured a two-page colour insert of Christmas dolls that was exceptional for the period; colour was rarely used in catalogues and none of the other extant Morgan's catalogues featured it.

Later Christmas catalogues adhered to a more conventional layout, with numerous items being illustrated and described on a given page. Specific Christmas or New Year's goods, such as gift tags, greeting cards, calendars, and other seasonal novelties that the store hoped to move quickly, were presented in the first pages. The 1908 catalogue grouped selected toys, china, silver, and miscellaneous household items by price to assist budget-conscious shoppers with their gift choices.

The arrival of the telephone at Morgan's sometime around 1909 had profound consequences for the organization of the mail-order department. The last extant catalogue was issued in 1910, and, by the early 1920s, the department as such had ceased to exist, its functions absorbed by a new "shopping service." This service may have existed in embryonic form before 1923, but it was undoubtedly expanded and consolidated with the completion that year of Morgan's new Union Avenue annex, complete with its large telephone exchange.

The service was designed to make shopping as convenient as possible for customers who ordered goods by post or by telephone, as well as for in-store customers who required assistance with a complex purchase. Although the shopping service survived into the 1950s, Morgan's mail-order business itself was in decline after 1910 and seems to have largely disappeared after 1930.

Henry Morgan & Company embraced mail-order sales as one component in an evolving retailing strategy that included high quality goods, excellent store locations, and the adoption of different merchandising techniques to win and retain consumer loyalty in the competitive Montréal market. Although the mail-order division allowed the department store to reach customers across the country during the economic boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from the 1920s Morgan's concentrated on its local market, making extensive use of newspaper advertising and encouraging shopping by telephone. In addition, it reduced its dependence on the success of the retail division by diversifying into non-retail areas that had initially spun off from the store's activities, such as real estate; packaging, storing and shipping goods; and, estate management.
by Alan M. Stewart

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

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