Although Morgan's was the first of the large department stores to open its doors on St. Catherine Street, William H. Scroggie had operated his dry goods store at the corner of St. Catherine and University since about 1885. In fifteen years, Scroggie expanded and transformed his business, creating a department store that occupied the Queen's Block between University and Victoria. By 1904, his store consisted of a four-storey central portion with three-storey wings.

When Scroggie's entered the mail-order business is unclear, although it may have been after the store's first expansion in 1892. By 1903, it carried on an "extensive mail order business ... throughout the Dominion." Two years later, it styled itself "The Mail Order House of Eastern Canada," with the biggest business east of Ontario. Scroggie's mail-order sales pitch was all enthusiasm. Whether it was a question of how to send money - by express money order, postal note, or postal money order - or the cheapest, most reliable means of shipping goods (express was recommended for parcels between 2 and 25 pounds and freight for goods over 25 pounds), Scroggie's spring-and-summer catalogue of 1905 provided the customer with necessary information.

Scroggie's policy translated into key selling points. In 1905, the store promised to fill orders the day they were received; it offered savings of 10 per cent to 20 per cent compared to other stores; and, for dry goods of $5 or more and bulky merchandise of $10 or more, it paid freight charges to railroad stations within nearly 500 kilometres [300 mile] of Montréal. By 1910, the promise of free delivery (with exceptions such as sugar, flour, mattresses, and appliances) extended throughout Canada on orders over $25. Scroggie's emphasized that shopping at its store was safe: With the exception of millinery, toiletries or cut fabric, it promised to refund the money on the return of a purchase. Every parcel was stamped with a "seal of satisfaction."

Improved service soon extended to French customers. While the 1905 catalogue told French clients that "nous préférons que vous nous écrivez en Anglais" [we prefer that you write to us in English], by 1908, catalogues were being issued in French. The company offered to send French catalogues to customers who had received English ones by mistake. In this regard Scroggie's was 20 years ahead of its Toronto-based competitors, Eaton's and Simpson's.

For four years after Carsley's purchased the building in 1909, Scroggie's leased the cramped, two-story premises formerly occupied by Hamilton's at the southeast corner of St. Catherine and Peel. In November 1913, having negotiated a 19-and-a-half-year lease, Scroggie's moved into what was then the city's largest department store, a new, six-storey building on the south side of St. Catherine, between Bleury and Saint-Alexandre. In 1915, Scroggie's sold its operations to Almy's Limited, a company representing American interests from New York and Massachusetts. Almy's kept the business going, with a mail-order division occupying most of the sixth floor, until 1922 when it ceased activity.
by Alan M. Stewart

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

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