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Catalogues and Consumer Loyalty (Page 2)

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Patriotism and Pride Help Make the Sale

  Business magazine, Eaton's News 
Weekly, November 1924.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's News Weekly was published for business people, one of the many examples of how companies adapted to their clientele. Eaton's News Weekly, November 1924.


A highly regionalized country, Canada made it possible for companies to target various groups: western farmers, miners, members of the Quebec clergy, Maritime fishermen, etc. Certain companies specialized, while others sought a national market. This shows that companies were adaptable and made every effort to reach as many consumers as possible. It is not surprising, therefore, that, in 1898, Eaton's published a Klondike Catalogue especially for people who were participating in the gold rush. In 1903, the Toronto firm adapted to another reality with the Settlers' Catalogue for the new settlers arriving in the West. Another example is the Business People's Number, published in 1924. Essentially, the point to bear in mind is that Eaton's, like its main rivals, made it its duty to adapt to the market by every means possible. However, two of the most influential department stores, Dupuis Frères and Eaton's, distinguished themselves from their competition by drawing on patriotism to secure consumer loyalty.

  The key to success, Dupuis 
Automne hiver 1932-33, cover.  

Enlarge image. "Let's help one another. Co-operation is the key to success." (translation) This Dupuis Frères slogan is representative of the company's advertising strategy. Dupuis Frères Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1932-33, cover.


Dupuis Frères

Dupuis Frères is certainly the most eloquent example of a company that invited the population to buy "French Canadian" to further the survival of a race. A veritable empire that controlled an extremely large share of the Quebec market, the Montréal store never hid its patriotism, and proclaimed loudly and clearly that it was the largest French store in North America. Added to this clearly stated patriotism was the pride of having accomplished a "feat," that is, having established a company that was owned, managed, and kept afloat by French Canadians.

  Dupuis  Frères: an economic 

Enlarge image.Dupuis Frères: an economic force. In Montréal, Dupuis Frères could boast about making it difficult for Eaton's and Simpson's, two large Toronto companies, to penetrate the Quebec market.


Through Duprex, a publication that served as a tool for communication between the employees and the company, Dupuis Frères drew on patriotism to encourage its employees and to convince them that it was a just cause, but also, and above all, to make them convincing, once they were convinced. For example, in a 1927 issue of Duprex, the company stated that "in a country such as ours, submerged by immigration, surrounded by US, British or Jewish financing, we do not have the right to be ordinary, mediocre, inferior, and to resign ourselves to the perpetual role of hewers of wood and drawers of water, obsequious and fearful servants. In this Canada that was discovered, colonized, and evangelized by our own people, we have a moral obligation [to show ourselves] as superior in distinction, knowledge, and value." [transl.] (Cited by M. C. Matthews in his MA, 1998.)

  Fleur de lis, Dupuis Frères 
été 1944, back cover.  

Enlarge image.It was not by chance that the ad for this painting of a fleur-de-lys was placed on the back cover of the catalogue. It fits in with the vision of pride and patriotism advocated by the Montréal department store. Dupuis Frères Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1944.


The use of patriotism was clearly one of the highlights of the promotional advertising strategy employed by Dupuis Frères throughout its history. This can be explained by the fact that the company clearly gave itself the mission of working towards an economic conquest by French Canadians, and in particular Quebeckers. As a result, it structured its advertising around the concept of pride, pride in language, faith, and homeland. It is not surprising, therefore, that Dupuis often used the traditional fleur-de-lys, as well as the maple leaf.

  Maple leaves highlighting Dupuis 
family members, Dupuis Frères Printemps été 1932, 

Enlarge image.Like Eaton's, Dupuis Frères employed the maple leaf as a national or patriotic symbol. However, the Montréal company's ideology focused more on the survival of the French Canadian race, as this image shows. Dupuis Frères Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1932, cover.


The company also claimed that it served the interests of French Canadians and the Catholic clergy, so it did not hesitate to use various expressions, harangues, and words as strategies to achieve consumer loyalty. Defining itself as a national institution, the firm endorsed the view that the survival of French Canadians was a miracle in a British country. This strategy was rather effective, since Dupuis Frères was the main competitor of the major Toronto companies, Eaton's and Simpson's, and made it difficult for them to penetrate the Quebec market.


  Canada's Greatest Store, Eaton's 
Spring Summer 1898, cover.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's regularly used slogans such as "Canada's Greatest Store" to distinguish itself from its competitors. This type of formula made the company more visible and seems to have been effective. Eaton's Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1898, cover.


As Lorraine O'Donnell showed in her research, covers of Eaton's catalogues with a Canadian theme offered a particular vision of the company with respect to the country. Eaton's positioned itself as a key element of national development and Canadian identity. The company's name, the T. Eaton Company of Canada (and later, Eaton's of Canada), reflected the idea that Eaton's was an important force in the development of Canada. The company also boasted about its mail-order service, which was offered from coast to coast, even in the most remote areas. As early as 1887, Eaton's informed its customers that its catalogue would go wherever the maple leaf was found within the Dominion.

  Coast-to-coast mail order, Eaton's 
Spring Summer 1904, cover.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's mail-order service extended from coast to coast. Eaton's Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1904, cover.


Eaton's promoted itself as the Canadian department store that marketed the widest variety of products throughout the country. In doing so, it emphasized that Eaton's was a Canadian company managed by Canadians, present in every region, selling Canadian products to meet the needs of Canadians. The company clearly appealed to a sense of patriotism, so it is not surprising that the first page of the catalogue regularly featured a visual image of Canada in the form of a map or globe highlighting the country.

  Across Canada service, Eaton's Spring 
Summer 1950, cover.  

Enlarge image.Eaton's was present throughout Canada. The company highlighted this in ads that emphasized the country's geography. Eaton's Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1950, cover.


Other symbols such as the maple leaf, the beaver, the coat of arms, and the flag were used to evoke Canada. The colours of the Canadian flag, excerpts from the Proclamation of Confederation, or the image of the Parliament buildings strengthened the ties between Eaton's and the Canadian population.

It should be noted that these deliberately nationalistic ads were found more often in the Toronto editions of the Eaton's catalogue. It is clear that the editors of the Winnipeg and Moncton editions did not necessarily play on patriotic feelings. On the other hand, an image that was heavy with meaning — that of newcomers settling on their land in the West — helped show the importance attached to Confederation, a recent undertaking at the time.

  Western farmer looks to the future, 
Eaton's Fall Winter 1920-21, cover.  

Enlarge image.This image of a western farmer looking towards the future of his country was imprinted on the collective imagination. Eaton's Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1920-21, cover.


The newcomers in turn became a key element of national development and forged Canada's identity in their own way. Adapting to the target audience was, therefore, a priority in the main ads in Eaton's catalogues. There may have been differences in the approach, but the basic mechanisms and the common patterns were maintained. In short, the Winnipeg and Moncton distribution centres, for example, did not go against Eaton's advertising principles and inevitably remained under Toronto's normative influence.

The Need to Adapt

  Modern conveniences in a rural 
setting, Eaton's Spring Summer 1926, cover.  

Enlarge image.Modern conveniences can fit quite well into a rural setting, as illustrated in this image that is heavy with meaning. Eaton's Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1926, cover.


The department stores were always willing to adapt and modify the design of their catalogues to keep their customers. The country's increasing modernization and the idea of progress forced them to revise their ads. For example, when they used images of farmers labouring in the wheat fields, they took care to illustrate the progress achieved in agriculture. Better still, the image of the western farmer who looked to the future of the country, its open spaces, forests, and urbanization definitely left its imprint on the collective imagination. Similarly, the inclusion of desired accessories in the photographs, such as an automobile in a rural area, made it possible to show technological improvements and elements of modernization.

  Promoting blood donations, Eaton's 
Fall Winter 1944-45, cover.  

Enlarge image.The catalogues were adapted to the reality of war in their own way. In this example, two young women indirectly promote the donation of blood and invite women to contribute to the war effort. Eaton's Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1944-45, cover.


As the years went by, retailers began to use more images of people who were politically involved, such as women who showed their patriotism by waving flags or by encouraging people to donate blood in wartime.

  Girls promote victory of the Second 
World War, Eaton Printemps été 1945, cover.  

Enlarge image.The Allied victory in the Second World War inspired numerous ads. This one was no exception. Eaton's Spring/Summer Catalogue, 1945, cover.


At the end of the Second World War, several companies exploited the theme of victory. In one ad, children were depicted as symbols of victory, each holding a flag that was highly significant (those of Canada and Britain) and standing in front of the famous lion that represented the power of Britain.

  Women as consumers, Dupuis 
Automne hiver 1944-45, cover.  

Enlarge image.In many large ads, a woman occupies most of the image. She was the one who had to be highlighted because she was at the centre of the purchasing process. Dupuis Frères Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1944-45, cover.



Securing consumer loyalty through mail-order catalogues inevitably involved commercial imagery. Such imagery encompassed various strategies of promotional advertising that can easily be observed on catalogue covers and in main ads. As a result, the messages that retailers wanted to convey were, for example, built mainly around images. Women inspired the designers quite often, since they were at the heart of the process of catalogue shopping.

  Catalogue for clerics and religious 
communites, Dupuis Frères Automne hiver 1939-40, cover.  

Enlarge image.This edition for the clergy and religious communities clearly illustrates how companies adapted. They did not hesitate to modify their approach slightly to gain consumer loyalty. Dupuis Frères Fall/Winter Catalogue, 1939-40, cover.


In addition, the importance attached to consumer loyalty is reflected in the fact that companies adapted to their clientele. As Canada is a highly regionalized country with a diverse population, retailers wanted to satisfy as many people as possible by adapting to their reality. It is not surprising that certain differences can be identified in the approaches taken by the companies, who often deemed it appropriate to focus on a more specific clientele at a particular point in time. However, the basic mechanisms and the common patterns were always maintained in order to secure the loyalty of each of those groups using identical procedures. Viewed from this perspective, no matter where they lived, consumers identified directly or indirectly with "their" store, with the one that contributed the most when it came to forging their personal identity and affirming their membership in the community. This proves that catalogues stimulate interaction between consumers and companies.

Further Reading

Breton, Philippe and Serge Proulx. "Publicité, communication et consommation." In L'explosion de la communication : la naissance d'une nouvelle idéologie, pp. 103-118. Montréal: Boréal, 1991.

Côté, Luc and Jean-Guy Daigle. Publicité de masse et masse publicitaire: Le marché québécois des années 1920 aux années 1960. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1999.

Idoux, Raymond. "Marchandises en vedette: Eaton et l'imagerie commerciale." In Cap-aux-Diamants 40 (Winter 1995): 48-51.

Lambert, Anne. "Images for Sale: How Eaton's Saw Us." Branching Out 4 (March-April 1977): 30-33.

Matthews, Mary Catherine. "Working for Family, Nation and God: Paternalism and the Dupuis Frères Department Store, Montreal, 1926-1952." M.A. Thesis, McGill University, 1998.

Monod, David L. Store Wars: Shopkeepers and the Culture of Mass Marketing, 1890-1939. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

O'Donnell, Lorraine M. "A Small World: Representations of Women in the Eaton's Catalogue Covers, 1886-1975." Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Historical Association, May 2001. Preliminary version of a chapter included in her PhD thesis, "Visualising the History of Women at Eaton's, 1869-1976."

Trudel, Robert. "Famille, Foi et Patrie: le credo de Dupuis Frères!" In Cap-aux-Diamants 40 (Winter 1995): 26-29.


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