Pick or Click – A Story of Retail Sales

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April 11, 2022

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I’m graduating from high school, and I’m an immature, non-thinking kid. So, I asked my parents, “All my special senior clothes must come from Neiman Marcus!” This was so important to me.  Fortunately, I had very understanding parents, who accepted the fact that I was a selfish teenager and that hopefully, I would outgrow my childlike behavior.  But, in the meantime, clothes from Neiman Marcus were so important to me.  What’s so special about Neiman Marcus?  Everything!   

There’s a new book out—A Girl Named Carrie, The Visionary Who Created Nieman Marcus and Set the Standard for Fashion. (pic 1) It was written by a great niece—Jerrie Marcus Smith.  Carrie Marcus Neiman with her brother, Herbert Marcus, in 1907, a year of financial panic, opened a store in Dallas and offered only ready-made women’s clothing—designer labels from New York.

Carrie selected the merchandise, and it was this merchandise that made Neiman Marcus distinct from any other store in America.  It still is!  That aura still hovers over all their stores even though the family no longer owns the business. Yes, Carrie Neiman, knowing how to buy and sell, remains prominent in the retail world, but there are other ‘salesmen’ of note. 

John Wanamaker—the Philadelphian Who Ushered America into the Consumer Age.

(pic 2 with caption) When John Wanamaker was a little boy growing up in Philadelphia, he was shopping for a gift for his mother. He found the ideal present and paid for it with his ‘saved up’ money.  After making the purchase, as he was leaving the store, he saw something else he would rather have.  He asked the storekeeper if he could exchange the gift. “No! You bought it–you keep it,” he was told.  Little John responded, “Someday, I’m going to open a store, and I’m going to be nice to my customers!”   

John Wanamaker

That is exactly what John Wanamaker did. In 1861, in Philadelphia, he bought an old depot, restored it, and opened a department store—Wanamaker’s Department Store. This was the first time the word, department, was used to describe a store.  He put everything under one roof—no more thread store, fabric store, tool store, furniture store. All would be sold in one building. He also put a price tag on every item. Before Wanamaker, one would bargain. “How much are you going to charge me for this?”  No more!  And on that price tag was printed, “Satisfaction Guaranteed or your money back!” 

Wanamaker taught a Sunday School Class which grew to be the largest in the world—2,000 members.  He always said, “I created two churches—Bethel Presbyterian Church and Wanamaker’s Department Store!”  

At the turn of the century, John built an eleven-story building for his merchandise in the heart of Philadelphia. In the building, he had built the largest pipe organ in the world. Someone still plays the organ during store hours. You can google “Wanamaker Organ” and hear a concert.  He also opened the first tearoom for the ladies who shop. Then, he had a giant golden eagle sculpted and placed it in the middle of the store.  “Meet me at Wanamaker’s at the eagle!”

With such success in business, President Benjamin Harrison, honored him with an appointment in (pic 3) Washington. Harrison named Wanamaker Postmaster General of the United States. The first thing he did as Postmaster was to establish Rural Free Delivery (RFD) so that those living in rural sections of the US no longer had to pay for mail delivery.  

Two watch makers decided they could sell other products besides watches via mail. Their names were Richard Warren Sears and Alva Curtis Roebuck!  They were truly a success with mail order along with Aaron Montgomery Ward. Both began publishing large catalogues with terrific selections. But, today, there’s another way to shop—AMAZON!

Jeff Bezos and the World as We Now Know It

You place an order, and the package is on the doorstep, sometimes before the day is over.  And there are drones that drop an order into the back yard!  You want some ice cream at pool side?  You got it!

The story of ‘instant delivery’ started in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a young girl who was not allowed to attend her high school graduation ceremony. Why? She was pregnant!  Later, she gave birth to a little boy and named him Jeffery Preston. The couple separated and she lived with her parents until the little boy was four years old; then she moved to Houston where she met a Cuban immigrant, Mike Bezos. They married and Mike adopted the baby giving him his name—Bezos.

Jeffrey was brilliant to say the least—the valedictorian of his class!  

He went to Yale, majored in banking and finance, and graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa. He married and that marriage was blessed with four children–three boys and a little girl, adopted in China. Jeffrey then decided to go into business for himself. He chose the name of his company—the first letter of the alphabet, and a word meaning powerful—AMAZON!  

He was always thinking MONEY.  He decided it was cheaper to move to the state of Washington to open a business. While driving west, he passed through several Indian reservations, and he always stopped to ask the residents of the reservations if he could start his business there, where there were no taxes! The answer always came quickly —”NO!”

In Washington, south of Seattle, he rented a garage and sold books by mail order. Then he went into CDs and videos, and then…. EVERYTHING!  The rest is history! And “history,” Jeffrey has made. He is one of the richest men the world has ever known. His first marriage ended with a multi-billion-dollar settlement (pic 4) for his wife, who is giving away her share to worthy causes.  Recently she sent large sums to Prairie View A&M in east Texas and Paul Quinn College in, Dallas received a great deal of much needed money, as well. By the way, Jeffrey has not stopped with this world—he’s going into space!  And we ask–what’s next?                  


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