Montgomery Ward & Co.

Former U.S. retail merchandising company.

It was founded in Chicago in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844–1913), who bought merchandise wholesale and sold it directly to farmers. He distributed the world's first mail-order catalog and offered a money-back guarantee. The company opened its first retail stores in 1926, and by 1930 retail sales exceeded catalog sales. It ended its mail-order business in 1985, and in 1997 it scaled back operations after filing for bankruptcy protection. Another bankruptcy in December 2000 caused the company to close its 250 stores and go out of business the following year. See also direct-mail marketing; Sears, Roebuck and Company.

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▪ American company
      American retail merchandising company founded in Chicago in August 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward (Ward, Montgomery) (1844–1913). Its headquarters were located in Chicago throughout its long history.

      Ward started the company in 1872 with $2,400 capital and the aim of buying large quantities of merchandise wholesale and then selling it directly to farmers in rural areas without the help of retail intermediaries. Such an operation would provide goods to farmers at low prices but still yield Ward acceptable profits. To accomplish this, Ward began distributing the world's first mail-order catalog (mail-order business) (initially a single sheet listing goods and prices) and backed up his sales with a money-back guarantee. Both the company's sales and the number of items in its catalog grew quickly from the mid-1870s on. Ward's two partners in the original mail-order venture withdrew during the panic of 1873, and he brought in his brother-in-law George Robinson Thorne (1837–1918). In 1889 they converted their partnership into a corporation, privately held, and enjoyed good sales despite the Panic of 1893—until a new competitor, Sears, Roebuck and Company (founded 1893), began outdistancing Montgomery Ward & Co. in advertising, merchandising, and sales, never yielding its leading position thereafter.

      Wards opened its first retail stores in 1926; by 1930 there were 556 of them across the country, and retail sales exceeded catalog sales. In 1968 Montgomery Ward & Co. merged with Container Corporation of America; the resultant holding company was named Marcor Inc. In 1974 Mobil Oil Corporation (Mobil Corporation) bought 54 percent of the voting shares of Marcor, and two years later Marcor merged into the new Mobil Corporation. In 1985 Montgomery Ward & Co. ended its 113-year-old mail-order catalog business in order to concentrate on its retail operations. Mobil Corporation sold Montgomery Ward & Co. in 1988, and, although the latter attempted to again became an independent corporation, it was purchased by a subsidiary of General Electric (General Electric Co.).

      In the 1990s Montgomery Ward & Co. faced stiff competition from new discount retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart, and it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Although it attempted to modernize its stores, the company continued to suffer losses. In December 2000 it announced it was going out of business and closed all its stores in the United States.

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Universalium. 2010.

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