The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Evolution From Fur Trading to Retail

published on July 19, 2020

When you think of department stores you probably think of elevator music and holiday sales you probably don't think of frontier warfare forbidden romance and the rugged heroes of manifest destiny but maybe you should because today we'll be looking at the Hudson's

Bay Company this video is brought to you by tab for cops a free browser extension that donates money to charity with every new tab you open without costing you a single dime the Hudson's Bay Company is best known today as a Canadian retail

Conglomerate it owns department store brands like Lord and Taylor Saks Fifth Avenue and of course Hudson's Bay HBC has stores all over Canada the US and parts of Europe with annual sales of almost 7 billion Canadian dollars but it

Didn't start out that way in fact it started before department stores even existent all the way back in the tail end of the 17th century in 1659 – French fur traders got a tip from the native Cree that Hudson's Bay was a rich

Opportunity for fur trading they sought backing from the French who controls the Canadian fur trade at the time to set up a fort in the bay to reduce the costs of transporting their goods after being refused they set out anyway and upon

Their return they were arrested for trading without a license they were fined and their furs were confiscated by the government not the optimum start but still they were convinced the bay was the place to be for a fur trader looking

To strike it rich stonewalled by the French they approached a group of Boston businessmen looking for investments and with the help of their benefactors they set out to England to secure more support in 1670 king charles ii granted

The group a trading charter and incorporated their venture as a governor and company of adventurers of england's trading into Hudson's Bay Charles's cousin Prince Rupert was installed as the company's first governor they were

Granted nearly one and a half million square miles of Canadian territory to explore including modern-day Ontario and Quebec the Canadian fur trade was heating up by that point but the region was still fraught with danger and the

Constant threat of war the HBC relied on native trappers to supply many of their pelts but various native tribes were often at war with one another and expeditions had a tough time making it back to the trading forts

Which were concentrated in the bay without being attacked by rival tribes Henry Kelsey a Hudson's Bay apprentice who would later become company governor made serious inroads with the local Cree learning their language and adopting

Their customs in an effort to promote peace among the tribes in fact Hudson's Bay employees integrated quite often into local Creek culture many HBC traders married Cree women and had children known in local parlance as

Half-breeds this was of course considered illegal by the company but it happened nonetheless eventually the HBC eliminated its regulations against intermarriage as the children of these mixed-race couples became employees of

The company it wasn't just the local native tribes that presented a problem for the HBC though skirmishes with the French forces looking to establish dominance in the fur trade were a fact of daily life for

Much of the HBC's 1st century in 1759 however in the middle of the Seven Years War the British defeated the French at the Battle of Quebec the French abandoned their nearby forts but French allied native tribes refused to

Recognize British Authority burning several forts until King George the 3rd signed a treaty which established land outside the trapping grounds as protected territory for the First Nation people's but all this competition only

Forced the HBC to expand especially as they strove to outpace their economic rival the Northwest company which employed a legendary trapper named Alexander Mackenzie who once covered a round trip of 3,200 miles in just over a

Hundred days that's more than a marathon every 24 hours beating a guy like that is pretty good motivation to expand and so they did the next big hurdle for hpc was the gold rush of 18-49 as 40,000 laborers

Looking to get rich came West the massively increased demand made basic goods almost unaffordable the price of unskilled labor for example doubled the profits from gold mining I've said this enough to keep things profit

But mute acts and customs laws were a huge inconvenience for HBC their ships for example had to sail an extra 350 miles of course just for inspection in 1881 HBC created its first mail-order catalogue the start of which would

Become its multi billion-dollar department-store business but the 20th century is when the retail arm of the Hudson's Bay Company really started expanding after all it was a natural extension of their experience with

Trading posts updates for the modern world their trading posts by the way were so successful that now major Canadian cities sprung up around them like Winnipeg and Calgary in 1926 HBC entered the oil and gas business which

Persisted throughout a good chunk of the century until the crashing ore prices of the 1980s but as the urbanization and rising consumerism of the 20th century continues to grow it was HBC's investment in retail that kept paying

Off and there a number of stores and acquisitions increased by that point it serves the fur trade hit dwindled to almost nothing and it was a target of consistent attacks by anti-fur advocates leading the company to sell off its line

Of fur auction houses and to abandon the trade completely but while the retail division was soaring above its American rival Sears in 1994 another American giant entered the Canadian market Walmart an all-out pricing war developed

Between the Walton family super stores an HP C's discount our sellers in just three short years Walmart gained a 45 percent market share outpacing sellers HBC's answer was to invest in much larger than earth locations and they

Even purchased all the K Mart's in Canada zellers was rebranded as a more upscale discount store closer to Target and Walmart and its historically lousy customer service was actually improved but low sales persistent by this time

Ecommerce was just starting to become a viable markets and HBC quickly jumped on board with HBC calm the existing competition however was just too much sales remained stagnant and the stock price began to plunge in 2005 South

Carolina billionaire and takeover artist Jerry Zucker launched hostile bid eventually winning the company for just over 15 Canadian dollars per share but he died in 2008 leaving the company and chaos just in

Time for the great recession Zellers locations were either sold off or released out to target Canada which declared bankruptcy in 2015 as you can imagine with Amazon knocking on the door the HBC's management isn't very

Confident in February 2017 they tried to sell out to Macy's but with decreasing profits in an increasingly uncertain future it probably won't be long before the Hudson's Bay Company joins the fur business in the history books now before

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