A cornerstone of the Eaton empire was its catalogue business, established in 1884 along with mail-order facilities to reach pioneer farm communities. The discontinuation of this business in 1976 spurred internal reorganization and revitalization. Other early innovations included the Product Research Bureau, which was established in 1916 by John Craig Eaton, who was inspired by his father's insistence that customers should always know what was in their merchandise; it was the first developed in Canada by a retailer. The company's sales revenues and assets were undisclosed.
In February 1997 the Eaton family, who owned all shares in the company, shocked the retail world by seeking protection under the bankruptcy laws. At the time, the company had an estimated 24 500 employees and over 90 retail outlets across Canada, many of which were considered integral parts of their communities. In 1998 Eaton Co went public and launched a campaign to improve its position, reducing its retail outlets to 64. But the company finished the year with a net loss of $72 million, and in 1999 it announced further closures and a corporate restructuring plan. This failed to work, and amid many expressions of sorrow about the end of an era, the company went bankrupt in August 1999.
Author DEBORAH C. SAWYER
Links to Other Sites
A profile of Timothy Eaton, Canada's preeminent department store magnate. From Library and Archives Canada.
The Archives of Ontario Remembers an Eaton's Christmas
Relive memories of an Eaton’s Christmas at this Archives of Ontario website. Includes video clips of traditional Santa Claus parade.
Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall
"Face to Face" features outstanding Canadians whose ideas and contributions have transformed this country. Click on the photos in "Meet the Personalities" to see their biographies. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Roch Carrier and The Hockey Sweater
An online exhibit devoted to hockey merchandise advertised in mail-order catalogues. Also features Roch Carrier's story "The Hockey Sweater." From the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation.