Discount Shopping during the Depression

The Depression of the 1930s provided opportunities for Army and Navy to purchase stock of bankrupt manufacturers and department stores for sale through its department stores and catalogue. The store in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, opened in 1933. The catalogue began to be called "The Bargain Book of a Nation." The spring-and-summer catalogue of 1936 stated: "[W]e are very happy to know that by offering better merchandise at Canada's lowest prices we will to some extent help the thousands of people who must 'stretch' their dollars this fall and winter as never before — this is the first Mail-order house in the history of the Mail-order business to offer its customers the advantages in 'price' and 'quality' made possible by the purchase of hundreds of Bankrupt stocks, Distress merchandise and factory surpluses …"

Cohen was sensitive to the situation of prairie farmers and their need for practical, inexpensive goods. On retiring as manager of the Regina store, Cec Keiser was quoted in The Leader-Post, April 30, 1977: "Sammy was always concerned with the poor people and many of our customers in the 1930s were farm families and those on relief."

The 15th anniversary fall-and-winter catalogue of 1937-38 noted: "Owing to the failure of crops in a large portion of our Mail-Order territory we have repriced downward practically this entire Catalogue in order to unload huge stocks of New Fall and Winter Merchandise, regardless of greatly advanced prices everywhere." Keiser noted that much of their daily take in the 1930s was government relief cheques. Cec recalls that it wasn't uncommon to have a farm family arrive and spend its entire cheque in the store. "Yes, and many times we would take a family across to a nearby café and buy them dinner before they headed home at night. It was almost an everyday thing."

The 1938-39 fall-and-winter catalogue, promoted as a Manufacturers Liquidation Sale, noted: "The industrial recession that set in over a year ago, bringing prices down, caused manufacturers stocks to pile up and orders have gone out to liquidate — sell out and get the cash …"
Canadian Museum of Civilization

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans