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Wanamaker’s Store: Retail Reinvention Project Essay

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Updated: May 6th, 2021


This was a clothes store. It specialized in retailing women’s designer clothes and perfumes together with other women’s accessories such as jewelry and shoes. I t was located in Pennsylvania and was the first department store in the region. It was in operation for a total of ninety years, the period between 1870 and 1960. The business was started as a family enterprise owned and run by a small Italian settler in the city of Pennsylvania. However, with time and with favorable market conditions, it flourished to become one of the largest public companies to be listed in the securities market in New York in 1900.

At the time of inception, the American economy was barely coming to terms with the changes of having shifted from a largely capitalist to a mixed economy. This shift enabled more and more people financial security and quite several families were raising their standards to a middle-class level. With the widening of this class, people started giving more attention to luxury and their dress codes became of major concern. There was a shift from the second-hand clothes that had filled the market as more people began to demand original first-hand clothes. Women, which were the target market for this store, spearheaded the migration. The first introduction of such designers as Victoria got hold of the market and with every new design that she subsequently released receiving quite a good reception. The prices of these designs never bothered the market that had started laying more importance on quality than the prices (Britton and Jorissen 45).

The long lifetime of the store came in 1892 when a decision was made to diversify its product range. Initially, it had operated only in the clothes but from this year such women treasured accessories as perfumes and makeup we’re introduced to the store with a section being expanded solely for them. This was a breakthrough at the time as the clients who had attached more quality to the products from the store could now get all the quality accessories under one roof. The subsequent years recorded great success as the name “Wanamakers” became a household name. This flourishing trend was to hit a snag in the year 1948 when the company first recorded a loss that had not been recorded ever since it was set up. The years to follow became unbearable leading to its final liquidation in 1960.

Customer analysis

The store was set up after serious scrutiny of the market trends and this was a major contributor to the fact that it survived for so long. Women are more frequent shoppers than men. This was established in the research, the management, therefore, decided to come up with a way of capturing more of the female shoppers could be possible. It was later established that women give more attention to how they look and they take more pride in their attire. This formed the catch, an idea behind which the clothes’ store was set up.

The shift to the mixed economy made more people financially secure and people became more at ease buying expensively from the market. This necessitated the store venturing out in the designer garments which would assure the customers of much quality for the money they spend.

Business life

The ninety years within which the business existed comprised of both bad and good times. These were brought forth by several decisions. Some of the good decisions that brought success to the firm included: listing it on the stock market. When the company was made public, most of its loyal customers bought shares and were very proud of the store. They maintained their monthly shopping and this was coupled with the sense of belonging. With more capital and a wide customer base, the venture was assured of a longer survival time. The idea to diversify its product range was another good decision that resulted in more capital (Kawakatsu & Morey 234)

By 1948 the business started recording low returns, this was as a result of some factors key among them being competition. More boutiques were opening up in Brooklyn and the entire New York City. The competition required that the store become more aggressive and get hold of its market positioning through improved brand visibility. It required more advertising an aspect that the management was not willing to consider. While other firms filled the media’s airtime and newspaper pages with adverts, Wanamakers stood its ground counting on its customer loyalty mechanism of holding onto the customers.

With a receding profit level each year but with a large number of shareholders who expected more dividends, the company began making losses investing less and less each year. The shareholders began expressing dissatisfaction with the performance of the company’s stock at the market and this resulted in depreciating investment in the company’s shares. When the company could not sustain itself anymore it was declared bankrupt in the early 1960 and finally wound up operations (Kuntara & Nuttawat 245).

Market players must put into consideration the role that advertising plays in the development of any business venture. Social media offers cheaper alternatives to this currently (Jeffery 65). If the firm, Wanamakers is to employ these mechanisms, it would still stand a chance to resurface as a market player once again.


Britton, Alex and A.Jorissen. International Financial Reporting and Analysis. Oxford: oxford university press, 2010. Print.

Jeffery,Benson. Introduction to Business Law, Boston: Boston University press, 2001. Print.

Kawakatsu, Harrison and Martin Morey. “Financial liberalization and stock market efficiency: an empirical examination of nine emerging market countries.” Journal of Multinational Financial Management 9.3(1999):353–371. Print.

Kuntara, Peter & Nuttawat Valery. “Commonality in liquidity: Evidence from the Stock Exchange of Thailand.” Pacific-Basin Finance Journal 17.1(2009): 80-99.Print.

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