The Second World War, Its Aftermath and Department Store Expansion

The Second World War and Its Aftermath

The New Westminster, BC, store opened in 1939, making Army and Navy one of the largest department store chains in Western Canada, with branches in Regina, Moose Jaw, Edmonton (two), Vancouver, and New Westminster. Each store was responsible for its own buying. During the Second World War, Army and Navy was the first store in Western Canada to introduce self-serve shoe departments, with tables dedicated to individual sizes. The retailer became famous for its shoe sales, for which people would line up around an entire city block. Following the war, Army and Navy again carried army surplus goods.

By 1950, more than 400 000 catalogues were being distributed throughout Canada. In the 1960s, to save printing costs Army and Navy produced an annual catalogue, "The Nation's 12 Month Bargain Book," rather than two seasonal catalogues. Periodically, extra catalogue pages were added to promote particular bargains.

Department Store Expansion

In December 1966, Samuel Cohen died and Garth C. Kennedy became president with Jack D. Cohen, vice-president. The company grew. Edmonton's north side store, located at 97th Street and 103rd Avenue since 1955, was extensively renovated and enlarged. The second floor, previously used for storage, was converted to sales in the fall of 1968. At the time, the company employed over 500 people in Edmonton.

In 1969, Army and Navy doubled the floor space of the Regina store (now in its fifth location). In 1973, "Canada's Original Discount Store," opened a store in a former Eaton's location in Saskatoon at 21st Street and 3rd Avenue. The New Westminster store moved to a new location at 502 Columbia Street in 1978. In 1980, encouraged by the boom taking place in Calgary, Army and Navy opened the chain's eighth link at 1107 33rd Street NE. The Calgary store marked a departure in several ways. It was the first store built by the company, rather than a refurbishment. The store was located in a new kind of location in a shopping centre serving a blue-collar clientele, rather than in a downtown area.

Shopping at an Army and Navy store was a treat for bargain hunters from all walks of life, particularly at the $6.95 shoe sales. A number of monikers, such as Antoine's, the Army and Navy Boutique and, in Regina, "The Little Shop on 11th Avenue," were introduced by middle-class customers to disguise the fact they shopped at a discount store.
by Catherine C. Cole

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

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