What Happened to Montgomery Ward?
Let’s go all the way back to 1872 when Montgomery Ward & Company began it’s pioneering mail-order business. Aaron Montgomery Ward started this company in a room above a livery stable in Chicago Illinois. Coincidentally, this story is not unlike many successful online businesses we see today. It usually starts with very humble beginnings. Of course, 1872 was a very different time and the concept of a mail order catalog seemed crazy. Yes, Mr Ward was crazy…crazy like a fox!
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Why was Montgomery Ward called Monkey Wards?Although this cannot be 100% verified, it is believed that Montgomery Ward sold exotic live monkeys. Back in 1872, this is not entirely a crazy idea. The name Monkey Wards was born!
Monkey Wards Competition
Twenty years after it’s inception, Montgomery Ward had some serious competition from another mail-order business. You may have heard of them. They were called Sears. At the turn of the century, Sears had sales over $10 million and Montgomery Ward was a close second at $8.7 Million. Mr Ward knew he had to increase his gross sales, so he opened his first retail storefront on 1926 in Plymouth, Indiana. Only two years later, he increased this number to 244 brick and mortar stores. Amazing!
Monkey Wards Struggle and Decline in the 70’s
In the 1970’s, due to a series of poor business decisions, the great Montgomery Ward began to struggle. By 1985 it closed it’s mail-order business permanently. Yes, we could bore you with all the financial details but let’s save that for another time. In the late 90’s, companies like Target and Walmart began to become more and more of a threat and Montgomery Ward could not withstand the pressure.
Originally, GE Capital promised to support Montgomery Wards In 1997, but reneged soon after. Monkey Wards officially declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and after the dismal Christmas selling season of 2000, closed all remaining retail stores. 37,000 employees were out of work
Monkey Wards Goes Online
In 2004, an online marketing company called Direct Marketing Services Inc purchased the intellectual property of Montgomery Ward and began selling online under that name. This acquisition did not quite work out for them and the Montgomery Ward name was sold again to Swiss Colony.
If you want to check them out today, you can find their online store below:
Despite its downfall in the early 2000s, the legacy of Monkey Wards lives on today through its online presence. While it’s sad to see such an iconic department store disappear from our neighborhoods, we can still appreciate the impact it had on American retail history. Montgomery Ward was truly ahead of its time, offering affordable and quality products to the masses long before other stores caught on. And who knows? Maybe one day, Monkey Wards will make a comeback and regain its status as a household name. Until then, we can remember it fondly as a beloved part of our nation’s past.
About Aaron Montgomery Ward
Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913) was an American businessman and entrepreneur who is widely regarded as the “Father of Mail Order Shopping.” He was born in Chatham, New Jersey, and moved to Niles, Michigan at the age of nine. After working in a variety of jobs, he eventually became a traveling salesman for a dry goods company.
Aaron Montgomery Ward
Aaron Montgomery Ward had a significant impact on the development of the department store. His mail-order business revolutionized the retail industry by offering customers the convenience of being able to purchase items without having to travel to a store, and by offering them a wide selection of goods at a lower cost than they would have paid in a store. His marketing techniques also helped to make department stores more popular and successful.
He was an innovative businessman who revolutionized the retail industry in the late 19th century. Ward’s effective business strategies helped him to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his time.