It’s been a hard few months for anyone in the retailing world but Inc.com has an excellent slideshow on how 17 companies survived previous recessions (link here). I liked the Wrigley and Toys “R” Us stories best, produced below:
With just $32 to his name, a 29-year-old Chicago entrepreneur named William Wrigley Jr. starts a business to manufacture soap. When it sells poorly, he tries baking powder. As a gimmick, he includes free chewing gum in every package. Customers seem more taken with the gum than with the goods it is meant to promote, so Wrigley drops the other products and starts developing new brands, including Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint.
During a time of high inflation, a 25-year-old named Charles Lazarus gambles that rising birth rates will sustain the baby-furniture store he opens in Washington, D.C. He soon adds toys, which prove popular. Sensing that consumers’ buying habits are changing, he decides that his second store will sell only toys and uses the supermarket as a model. The stores that Lazarus subsequently opens feature shopping carts and long aisles of merchandise and are an early example of big-box retail.