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merchandise, it has in most cases developed from the
dry goods or specialty store, by separating merchandise
in the large establishment into various departments, and
specializing each as if it were a business by itself.

The volume of business in each division permits the
securing of expert management and service, and ac-
counts in large degree for the success of the depart-
ment store, which has become a practical necessity in
the large community. It reaches out also into the
world's markets, and gathers for its trade the world's
products of skill and industry. Many large department
stores have offices, with agents or representatives, style
experts, and buyers, in Paris, London, and other cities
of the Old World. Stores, also, which do not maintain



such offices generally send departmental buyers abroad
several times a year.

The modern department store is not merely an
improved means of distributing merchandise that has
resulted from the growth of large cities, but also an
embodiment of the enlarging conception of the function
of the merchant, which includes large service to the
community as well as selling goods. The best type of
department store has come to be not only a great
warehouse for the buying and selling of all kinds of
merchandise, but also, increasingly, a quasi-public insti-
tution with various features of service, such as en-
tertainment, education, and commercial and vocational
training for the hundreds and even thousands for whom
it provides employment.

From the Public Point of View. From the public
point of view the department store is usually regarded
simply as a distributor of merchandise. In this respect
it reflects the times in the magnitude of its operations.
By reason of its large capital it is enabled to buy
cheaply or to give advance orders at times favorable
for production, thereby obtaining great quantities of
goods at the lowest market prices. It saves, also, by
direct buying and eliminating the jobber's profits. By
grouping many departments under one roof it is ena-
bled to reduce general operating expenses. Likewise
the entire skill and experience of the merchant and his
trained specialists are available to all these depart-
ments, so that they receive a higher degree of train-
ing and management in special lines than is usually
possible in small stores. In the matter of rent, also,


considering the various departments as individual stores,
which is a common method of operating large depart-
ments, if each of these small stores were to have a
separate building, the total rent would greatly exceed
the actual rent incurred by grouping them under one
roof. The large stores, moreover, by reason of their
large capital, are usually able to obtain the choice loca-
tions in a city, where the greatest number of people
pass, thus securing an extensive volume of business.
And a long lease or ownership of desirable corners or
locations in a large city gives weight to the idea of
the department store as a quasi-public institution, and
gives its holdings almost the nature of a franchise.

Out of this idea of grouping departments under one
roof have resulted many business improvements of
advantage to the general public.

Through a combination of modern merchandising
and advertising, in large measure, has come a remark-
able growth of department stores in the United States.
Within a single generation there have been developed
great establishments doing business ranging from a few
millions to twenty-five or thirty million dollars annually.

Harlow N. Higginbotham in The Making of a Mer-
chant says:

Few modern marvels surpass in interest the great department
store. Certainly this is so for the man of commercial tastes and
pursuits, and I cannot doubt that, in possibly a lesser degree, it
is so for the great mass of the American people. Perhaps there
are other developments of twentieth-century progress better
adapted to stand as types of the age; but it must be granted
that the department store is distinctly a latter-day institution
which is clearly representative of conspicuous elements and
tendencies in the life of the present hour.


The Rise of the Department Store. The general store,
selling all kinds of merchandise, has long existed in
this country, especially in small or rural communities.
In our cities, however, until within a generation, most
stores were specialty houses, selling single lines, such as
hardware, groceries, or dry goods; and generally they
were found grouped in districts, forming the market
district, dry-goods district, the wholesale district, and
others. As American cities increased in population, it
became more and more inconvenient for buyers or shop-
pers to go from store to store, or from one district to
another, and more profitable to the merchant to carry
many lines of goods.

Here lay both the need and the opportunity for the
modern department store. The city specialty store pro-
vided or attracted experience, enterprise, and capital.
The progressive city retailer added one line of stock
after another, eliminated the jobber, and handled large
quantities of goods at lower prices than his small,
specializing competitor. A strong factor from the begin-
ning was the principle of buying and selling for cash.
An important step, also, was the introduction of " odd-
cent" prices, when "even-money" prices had been uni-
versal in the country. Close selling and close buying
naturally went together. Free delivery of goods was
greatly advanced by this new form of commercial enter-
prise. Increased liberality in the exchange of goods
resulted. Finally, the department store has been aggres-
sive and always ready for a radical departure from old
methods for the sake of profit or reputation, and the
mammoth stores of the present day have resulted.


Competition. Because of the large capital involved,
heavy running expenses, and the scarcity of good avail-
able locations in a city, and because- of the natural
limit to the possible amount of business in a territory,
department stores will be limited in number in any one
community, and competition on a large scale corre-
spondingly restricted. There will always be competition
between < a department of one and the corresponding
department of another, especially in merchandise of the
lower grades. In addition to this general trade rivalry
there is, also, constant and strong competition from
specialty stores, chain systems of stores, and mail-order
houses. Within the great store itself, there is always an
effort among departments to see which shall produce
the greatest amount of profit due to enlarged volume
of business.

Future. The growth of cities in the last twenty-five
years is one of the most significant developments of
our times. The increase in city and suburban popula-
tion, with modern transportation facilities, has furnished
the condition which makes possible and necessary the
department store. One important condition is found
in the fact that the pressure of population has raised
the price of land, and rental is reduced by assembling
stores or shops in a single establishment.

Along with the increase of urban and suburban pop-
ulation will continue a growth in the volume of retail
trade which will in larger and larger degree take the
form of the regular department stores, specialized stores
(which are department stores with selected lines of
merchandise), and chain systems of stores (which, under


one firm name, ownership, and management, carry on
business in various communities). It is possible, also, that
the European idea of cooperative manufacture, distribu-
tion, and buying on the part of the public in the form
of cooperative retail stores will be adopted in some
degree in this country. The idea of the public cooper-
ating and owning its retail stores is spreading in the
West, Northwest, and along the Canadian frontier, and
is hastened in its development by the immigration of
people from European countries.

The modern American department store has become
an established institution whose future is limited only
by the growth of population and material resources, by
the supply of men competent to develop with its devel-
opment, and by changing conditions and business

Method of Treatment. In this study of the depart-
ment store, positions of all grades in which boys and
men are employed are enumerated. The major divisions
are not necessarily treated in a uniform manner ; each
one is considered in the way in which it presents
itself to the investigator, and according to its natural
features or relations to the entire system. In each
case an attempt is made to show the exact nature
of a division or subdivision, the duties and pay of
positions, and the lines of progress and relation in a
department, or between departments, with such other
features and information as may be necessary to present
a comprehensive, accurate, and impartial study of the
department store, from the standpoint of the boy or
young man.



An attempt is made to show organization and store
system clearly, because young men should in the main
look forward to filling the higher places, on account of
the constant and increasing competition of female help,
especially in selling and the minor positions.

Herewith is given a simple chart of a department-
store organization which follows the natural lines of the
business. Individual stores will have organizations which


| Four Coordinate Divisions


1 1

Merchandise Store



Manager Manager



1 XIX^

> x.

Buyers and S ^*+^

Jr ^***>^^

Assistant Buyers^
>fv Superin- Selling
./IX tending |
S \ Floor
Domestic! Foreign Managers

Writers of Artists Heads of
Advertise- Divisions

| Stock People | | Sales People |

Window Dressers

Office Clerks


Sign Painters


Floor Boys

Office Boys


differ according to their magnitude, ownership, gj^d special
conditions ; but most will correspond closely to this gen-
eral plan, which is followed in the succeeding chapters.

Four Major Divisions. At the nead of .the^organ-
ization or administration is the General Manager, who
has control of all the departments and activities of
the business. Under his control are four coordinate,
major divisions, Merchandising, Store Managing, Ad-
vertising, and Recording, each in charge of a manager


who reports to the general manager* The division of
store managing subdivides into superintending and sell-
ing, so that for full treatment there are four great
departments or divisions, in this order, merchandising
or buying, superintending and selling, advertising or
publicity, and the recording or office department.

Departments of Merchandise. Besides departments of
organization there are departments of merchandise and
of selling in the modern store. These are, however,
sometimes called sections, as the hosiery, linen, or drug
section. Even in the specialty store there may be fifty
sections of merchandise, while in the large, general es-
tablishment there may be several hundred.

The General Manager. In these great modern business
houses the smallest details and matters of the highest
importance move according to a well-ordered and well-
defined system. Executive responsibility is so plain
that employees in every branch of the business know
clearly who are in authority over them. In all such
large enterprises there is usually one personality, one
master mind, which directs and determines the policy of
the business. This may be its individual proprietor, its
president, secretary, treasurer, or other official. Next to
the actual head of the concern is the person in direct
command, the general manager, who may be a mem-
ber of the firm or employed by it. He has a wide over-
sight of all the interests of the business, yet he often
gives his main attention to the merchandising division.
He sets limits of expenditure for the buyers before they
make their purchases for a coming season. He makes a
study of conditions which may have a bearing upon the


trade of various departments. He analyzes national and
local financial prospects. He is quick to anticipate
changes in fashion and public taste. According to the
usual practice the general manager has conferences with
his buyers, singly or in groups, at fortnightly or monthly
periods. At such regular councils the manager presides
and brings up for discussion all topics of large interest.
He may thus on any day obtain a comprehensive view
of the condition of the entire establishment. He goes,
also, from department to department, looking after the
quality and prices of goods, and in some cases all bills
checked up in the receiving room are sent to his office
for approval before being paid. The general manager
is the chief executive of the business, and his control is
felt throughout all departments. In a very large busi-
ness his duties may be divided among several men.

The Board of Managers. The four managers of the
great departments below the general manager consti-
tute a board of managers. They hold regular meetings,
which are often attended by the general manager, dis-
cuss all problems of the business, and vote upon methods
for its conduct. In some cases the directors of the
corporation take charge of the great departments and
constitute the board of managers.


Merchandising includes the buying, care, and prepa-
ration of goods for sale. It covers all that precedes
advertising and actual selling, and affords a very com-
mon avenue to the boy for entrance into the business
of the department store.

Under this large, general division come five impor-
tant subdivisions or departments:

The Receiving Room. This is the room in which
all merchandise entering the store is received and
accounted for.

Positions. The positions are those of head receiver
and assistant head receiver, who have charge of all
merchandise coming in; the receiving clerk, who signs
for all goods received and makes entries in the proper
journals ; the examiner, who opens goods, inspects them,
and checks them from the invoices ; the bill clerk, who
makes a record of bills leaving this department; the
porters and handlers of merchandise.

In connection with the receiving room, or as a part
of it, is the returned-goods department, which has to
do with all merchandise returned by the department
store to wholesale dealers. The positions here are the
clerk, who keeps records and sends bills with returned
goods ; the packer ; and boy, or assistant packer.



The Marking Room. This is the room or division
of the store in which goods are marked with cost and
selling prices. In a large store it is usually a separate
room ; in the small store it is often a part of the receiv-
ing room, set aside for the marking of merchandise, but
having its own system and staff of employees.

Positions. The positions in the marking room are
head marker, assistant head marker, and the markers
who put cost and selling prices, as fixed by buyers and
the merchandise manager, on the articles of merchan-
dise before they are brought out for sale or sent to
the stock room.

The Stock Room. This is the part of the store in
which reserve or surplus merchandise is stored after
being examined and marked for sale. In the case of
stores doing an extensive business, articles taking up
a large amount of space, such as furniture, are often
stored in a separate building.

Positions. The positions here are the stock man and
his assistants, called stock boys, who have charge of
all merchandise in stock, prepare it, and bring it out
for sale.

The Division of Buying. This is a division of stead-
ily growing importance in the modern department
store. In a very large business buyers are sometimes
hired by the firm itself, and not by the superintendent
or employment manager. There are from thirty or
forty to one hundred or more buyers in stores em-
ploying from one thousand to five thousand people,
according to the number of merchandise departments
or groupings.


Positions. The positions in this department are the
buyer, assistant buyer, heads of stock, . and clerks who
do the necessary routine work, such as writing letters
and filling orders. Buyers have sample rooms in which
they meet representatives of wholesale houses, but their
clerical work is usually done in the departments to
which it may be related.

The Buyer. It is the practice in the larger, newer,
and more progressive houses to allow the buyer to
manage that part of the business with which he is
immediately connected as if it were his own. He buys
the merchandise for his department, usually a single
line only. He must have taste, judgment, and business
capacity, both for buying and for selling. At the pres-
ent time many buyers in department stores have come
from specialty stores, such as dry goods, groceries and
provisions, furniture, art goods, toys, or jewelry. An
increasing number, however, advance from the ranks in
the merchandising or selling departments of a store to
the position of assistant buyer and then of buyer.

The buyer must be a keen judge of merchandise,
both as to its intrinsic value and as to its market value.
He must also know kinds of goods and when, where,
and how much to buy. He must be able to purchase
goods that will suit the taste of the greatest number
of people. In producing profit for the store the buying
by one person must be set over against the selling by
scores or by several hundred. This shows the buyer's
responsibility and his value to the firm. He is the pivot
on which rests in large measure the general success of
the business. He has to see that goods are properly


priced for selling, that they are conspicuously displayed
in the sales department, and that the sales clerks are
instructed as to the nature of the merchandise, so that
they can talk intelligently to customers. He must also
secure proper window display and adequate newspaper
advertising, usually himself preparing newspaper adver-
tisements. The test of his efficiency is in the volume
of business and the annual profits of his department.

The Assistant Buyer. Each buyer has an assistant
who is supposed to be capable of taking his place in his
absence, besides helping in the general duties of the de-
partment. Many buyers make frequent trips to Europe,
and all must visit the mercantile centers of the country.
Thus the assistant is left as resident buyer and man-
ager. Under this assistant are " heads of stock," who
have charge of particular stocks of goods. From the
heads of stock, who have made a thorough study of
merchandise, are generally selected the assistant buyers.
They are also chosen from the ablest selling clerks who
have shown a willingness and a fitness to learn mer-
chandising, or to manage the minor details of a depart-
ment. The assistant makes a study of the supply and
condition of merchandise on hand and aids his chief in
the general conduct of the department.

The Merchandise Manager. The merchandise man-
ager is head of the buying department and chief of
the merchandising system. He may be simply a man
of very high ability to direct large affairs. Usually,
however, in addition he must have a very extensive
knowledge of all kinds of merchandise, or at least of
the most important lines. He may have been a very


capable buyer, promoted to take the direction of all
buying. From his position he may become a member
of the firm or corporation, and in some cases members
of the firm take upon themselves the duties of mer-
chandise managing, each having charge of a group of
buyers. All of these conditions are found in depart-
ment stores, from the man who has merely great execu-
tive capacity to the, proprietor of a business, who is
himself skilled in merchandising or managing.

The merchandise manager is responsible for all goods
bought and put in stock and for the gross receipts of
the system. He must see that goods are so well selected
and of such a valuable nature that their sale will result
in a reasonable net profit. He must cooperate with the
advertising manager in promoting sales. He looks after
all merchandise coming in and on hand throughout the
store. He compares the weekly reports of the stock men
with that of the stock office, where bills are entered
from the receiving room. He is responsible for the
personnel and training of his subordinates and is often
aided by one or more assistants.

The Assistant Merchandise Manager. When a business
has become very extensive and the merchandise depart-
ment has many and large divisions, its manager may
have an assistant or an organization of immediate sub-
ordinates, standing between him and the buyers. Each
assistant has under him a group of selling divisions, with
buyers and their helpers. The assistant may study the
general subject of profits, in an advisory capacity only;
he may supervise the resources of the department; he
may study the problems of competition between stores



and between the departments of his own store ; and he
may deal with the general question of stocks and of
plans to meet the needs of the various seasons.


Assistant Merchandise Manager


I Stocks of Goods I I Buying Organization I I Resources I I Profits

Assistant Buyers

Heads of Stock
Stock Boys

Stock Departments

From a few to several hundred
stock divisions in department


The Boy in the Merchandise Department. The age
limits for entering this department are practically four-
teen and eighteen years. Boys are usually taken at
the age of sixteen or seventeen, and one over eighteen


would be more likely to enter some other occupation,
or if he were fitted, an advanced position in the store.
The first position here is that of stock boy. Besides
this in small stores boys sometimes perform general
duties such as opening cases, unpacking merchandise,
putting it in order for checking and marking, checking,
marking in the receiving room, assorting bundles, pack-
ing goods for delivery, shipping, handling the shipping
truck, and booking. Pay at first ranges from $3 to
1 8 a week, according to age or the work performed.
The employer is constantly on the watch for boys capable
of filling advanced positions. The stock boy may pass
to the selling department, to the advertising office, or to
the retail office, with the advantage of his experience in
handling stock. He may become an assistant receiver or
receiver in his department at pay ranging from $15
to $30 a week. He may become an assistant buyer
and in time buyer or merchandise manager. The pay
for assistant buyer and buyer is variable, according to
the ability of the person and the magnitude of the busi-
ness done by the store. The assistant may receive from
|20 up to $40 or $50 a week; the buyer from $1000
or $2000 to many thousands of dollars a year.


Superintending and selling are so vitally connected
in the great field of the modern store that they are
usually treated together, as a single department. This
department includes all features of employment and
superintending, store equipment, and all forms and
branches of selling.


The following list of divisions and positions in this
double department is fairly typical:

The Employment Office. The work of this office is
vital to the success of the modern store. It calls for
rare capacity in judging human nature and ability, and
in putting the right person in the right place in a great
system. The duties are fourfold : a constant estimat-
ing of the force required throughout the store ; a care-
ful study of resources for getting help ; the keeping
of files and information regarding possible applicants ;
and the careful selection, placing, and following up of
persons taken into employment.

Positions. The duties are the same in this division in
all stores ; but various titles are given to the person at

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Online LibraryFrederick James AllenBusiness employments → online text (page 8 of 14)