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The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Evolution From Fur Trading to Retail

The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Evolution From Fur Trading to Retail


When you think of department stores, you probably
think of elevator music and holiday sales. You probably don’t think of frontier warfare,
forbidden romance, and the rugged heroes of Manifest Destiny. But maybe you should, because today we’ll
be looking at the Hudson’s Bay Company. This video is brought to you by Tab for a
Cause, a free browser extension that donates money to charity with every new tab open without
costing you a single dime. The Hudson’s Bay Company is best known today
as a Canadian retail conglomerate. It owns department store brands like Lord
& Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and of course Hudson’s Bay. HBC has stores all over Canada, the US, and
parts of Europe, with annual sales of almost $7 billion CAD. But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, it started before department stores
even existed, all the way back in the tail end of the 17th Century. In 1659, two French fur traders got a tip
from the native Cree that Hudson’s Bay was a rich opportunity for fur trading. They sought backing from the French, who controlled
the Canadian fur trade at the time, to set up a fort in the Bay to reduce the cost of
transporting their goods. After being refused, they set out anyway,
and upon their return they were arrested for trading without a license. They were fined, and their furs were confiscated
by the government, not the optimal start. But still, they were convinced the Bay was
the place to be for a fur trader looking to strike it rich. Stonewalled by the French, they approached
a group of Boston businessman, looking for investment, and with the help of their benefactors
set off to England to secure more support. In 1670, King Charles II granted the group
a trading charter, and incorporated their venture as the Governor and Company of Adventurers
of England trading into Hudson’s Bay. George’s cousin, Prince Rupert, was installed
as the company’s first Governor. They were granted nearly 1.5 million square
miles of Canadian territory to explore, including modern-day Ontario and Quebec. The Canadian fur trade was heating up, but
the region was fraught with danger and the constant threat of warfare. The HBC relied on Native trappers to supply
many of their pelts, but various Native tribes were often at war with one another, and expeditions
had a tough time making it to the trading forts, which were concentrated in the Bay,
without being attacked by rival tribes. Henry Kelsey, a Hudson’s Bay apprentice
who would later become company governor, made serious inroads with the local Cree, learning
their language and adopting their customs, in an effort to promote peace among the tribes. In fact, Hudson’s Bay employees integrated
quite often into local Cree culture. Many HBC traders married Cree women and had
children known in local parlance as “Half-Breeds”. This was, of course, considered illegal by
the company, but it happened nonetheless. Eventually the HBC eliminated its regulations
against intermarriage, and the children of these mixed-race couples became employees
of the Company. It wasn’t just the local Native tribes that
presented a problem for the HBC, though. Skirmishes with the French forces looking
to establish dominance in the fur trade were a fact of daily life for much of the HBC’s
first century. In 1759, however, in the middle of the Seven
Years’ War, the British defeated the French at the Battle of Quebec. The French abandoned their nearby forts, but
French-allied Native tribes refused to recognize British authority, burning several forts until
King George III signed a treaty, which established land outside the trapping grounds as protected
territory for the First Nation Peoples. But all this competition only forced HBC to
expand, especially as they strove to outpace their economic rival, the North West Company,
which employed a legendary trapper named Alexander MacKenzie, who once covered a round trip of
3200 miles in just over a hundred days — that’s more than a marathon every 24 hours. Beating a guy like that is pretty good motivation
to expand, and so they did. The next big hurdle for HBC was the gold rush
of 1849. As 40,000 laborers looking to get rich came
west, the massively increased demand made basic goods almost unaffordable. The price of unskilled labor, for example,
doubled. The profits from gold mining offset this enough
to keep things profitable, but new tax and customs laws were a huge inconvenience for
HBC. Their ships, for example, had to sail an extra
350 miles off course just for inspection. In 1881, HBC created its first mail-order
catalogue, the start of what would become its multibillion-dollar department store business. But the 20th Century is when the retail arm
of the Hudson’s Bay Company really started expanding — after all, it was a natural
extension of their experience with trading posts, updated for the modern world. Their trading posts, by the way, were so successful
that now-major Canadian cities sprung up around them, like Winnipeg and Calgary. In 1926 HBC entered the oil and gas business,
which persisted throughout a good chunk of the century, until the crashing oil prices
of the 1980s. But as the urbanization and rising consumerism
of the 20th Century continued to grow, it was HBC’s investment in retail that kept
paying off, and their number of stores and acquisitions increased. By that point its share of the fur trade had
dwindled to almost nothing, and it was the target of consistent attacks by anti-fur advocates,
leading the company to sell off its line of fur auction houses and to abandon the trade
completely. But while the retail division was soaring
above its American rival Sears, in 1994 another American giant entered the Canadian market:
Walmart. An all-out pricing war developed between the
Walton family’s superstores and HBC’s discount arm, Zellers. In just three short years Walmart gained a
45% market share, outpacing Zellers. HBC’s answer was to invest in much larger
Zeller’s locations and they even purchased all the K-Marts in Canada. Zellers was rebranded as a more upscale discount
store, closer to Target than Walmart, and its historically lousy customer service was
actually improved, but low sales persisted. By this time, e-commerce was just starting
to become a viable market, and HBC quickly jumped on board with hbc.com. But the existing competition was just too
much — sales remained stagnant, and the stock price began to plunge. In 2005, South Carolina billionaire and takeover
artist Jerry Zucker launched a hostile bid, eventually winning the company for just over
$15 CAD per share. But he died in 2008, leaving the company in
chaos just in time for the Great Recession. Zellers locations were either sold off or
leased out to Target Canada, which declared bankruptcy in 2015. As you can imagine, with Amazon knocking on
the door, the HBC’s management isn’t very confident. In February 2017 they tried to sell out to
Macy’s, but with decreasing profits and an increasingly uncertain future, it probably
won’t be long before the Hudson’s Bay Company joins the fur business in the history
books. Now, before you click off this video and open
a new tab, I want you to check out Tab for a Cause. It’s a free browser extension that modifies
your new tab page so that every time you open a new tab, you raise between a tenth and a
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Comments (100)

  1. Their still around?! Damn

  2. the dutch voc might be an intresting video idea. adjusted for inflation it was the richest company ever!

  3. This is definitely your best video yet, the editing is sooooooooo smooth!! The parallax effects makes it a lot more interesting to watch, especially for a fellow video editor!!

  4. Arn't they expanding to the Netherlands?
    If HBC goes under, what happens to all the Olympic gear?!

  5. Also started the heroine trade!

  6. didnt hbc try to buy macys not sell them selves to them

  7. It would be great if you did one on Smith & Wesson!

  8. General motors please

  9. That's really sad. An almost 400 year old company may be gone! I do hope the Canadian government steps in to save it as it's a piece of vital Canadian history it seems (and I'm American btw). 👍😎🍺🍻🍺💙

  10. they dont even have tap to pay! wow hbc get it together! its 2017

  11. Virginia company please? (Virginia slims) I recently learned about it and it is very interesting.

  12. A Canadian company 🙂

    Your videos are informative and easy to digest!

    Do Deloitte next!

  13. Hudson Bay is where you steal belts silverware

  14. Wow the writing and animations of this episode are amazing! Great job!

  15. In Canada every one learns all about the Hudson's Bay and the fur trade in history class. Especially in Winnipeg we learn even more

  16. There's a couple of mistakes with this. Radisson did not get his furs confiscated. There was a fine and then he had to pay taxes on it, which him and de grosseliers (his brother In law) did not want to do. So they escaped hidden in a band of first Nations and then escaped to Boston to sell the furs. You should read his journal. Which is his first hand account on what happened. Its quite cool. Btw I really like the fact you used some paintings from the people who actually lived through the fur trade. Really good video.

  17. Should have included more info

  18. Great, informative video!

  19. Congratulations on narrating videos in English.  Had I your accent, I would never have thought of doing that.

    6:58 Amazon Canada has not planned to open retail stores.

  20. The first image (the one of the shopping mall) is of Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv. Feels kindda weird to see a place you know well in a video 🙂

  21. Stunning visuals on this one!How did you achieve this "cinematic" effect on pictures?

  22. HBC, the most overpriced Amarican Canadian company

  23. 3:15 that's Andrew Jackson (an American not French). The painting is by Edward Percy Moran and it shows the battle of New Orleans (January 8, 1815). Also the French flag in this pic is just a Ameircan one in the original. Other than that, great vid

  24. I vote for the Dutch VOC!

  25. Hudson's Bay is now American-owned, press F

  26. HBC completely rebranded themselves in 2010 getting away from trying to compete with lowrent brands like Walmart and went back to what they always did best: selling high quality goods for reasonable prices and they're thriving now.

  27. If ur canadian this was most stutied subject in every history class

  28. sadly HBC might be the next to bunkruptcy, people just dont go to their stores anymore like sears now closing

  29. Is no one else gonna notice his picture for "skirmeshes with the french" is a painting of the battle of new orleans during the war of 1812?

  30. I miss zellers 🙁

  31. Canadian Busisnes being featured, I love it, black berry, hudsons bay, next you should do Tim Hortons

  32. i'm seeing a trend of businesses i've never heard of, struggling.

  33. This is by far your most polished, quality video yet. The picture effects are just amazing. keep on doing what ya doing! Your so close to 200K subs as well! congrats!

  34. I have mixed feelings about this video. On one hand, I'm glad to see a channel I enjoy tackle a subject that I care a lot about. On the other, while the broad strokes are largely correct, a lot of the details are not.

    Also, please don't call us halfbreeds. While historically correct, that term has long-since fallen into disuse since a) few "halfbreeds" are 50/50; b) breed has an animalistic connotation; and c) it implies that we are somehow incomplete as a people.

  35. As usual, you forgot to mention the separation of HBC from its 'Northern Stores' into a full fledged different corporate entity circa 1989ish.

    The fur action houses were sold off in the 5 years+ previous to this event, however in Montreal via "How Its Made" the HBC still has an equivalent of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange BUT FOR FURS ONLY!

    Ommited or Notable :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_North_West_Company
    http://www.northwest.ca/operations/canada.php
    http://www.northmart.ca/

    I don't quite see Walmart killing off HBC, but the upcoming poleshift might …

  36. HBC still sets the North American fur prices as a mercantile exchange, something that even the powerful Walmart cannot do … but the Canada it helped to create (due to the global warming) is much less in need of furs of any kind.

  37. Please do faber castell

  38. A video about Nokia would be interesting!

  39. Make a vid about Heineken

  40. 3:16 Isn’t that a painting depicting Andrew Jackson fighting the British in New Orleans in the war of 1812? The American flag was made a French flag, and the painting has nothing to do with the French 😂

  41. Almost 400 years that's a good run

  42. Disliked bc no Felix

  43. Ya left out how there expanding into e-commerce! There new robotic warehouses Or how they had kevia before amazon becuse the saw robotics was the future of e-commerce.. the ending was rushed my dude!!

  44. Great editing, one can see that you put a lot of love and effort into your videos! Gute arbeit

  45. I wish I had 7 billion dowras.. .

  46. hbc used to offer rifles for furs to the natives. They told them that a stack of furs needs to be as high as 1 rifle to get the rifle. I learned most of that in my history class in school, which was on a reservation. I don't really care if hbc goes out of business really, not for the history, but they sell overpriced everything.

  47. make a video on Cirque du Soleil please

  48. kodak and fujifilm please

  49. It's hard to compress 400+ years into an 8 minute video. The HBC story could be a three hour video.

  50. Enron! Would like to hear your take on this one ;).

  51. As a Canadian, the Hudson Bay's Company is a very significant part of our history. How significant? Very, very significant.

  52. Demise of Eatons, Simpsons & Sears. Will the HBC be the next retail victim?

  53. UHHHHH. The HBC did not go under.

  54. Canada was definitely loyal to the English crown

  55. Do East India Company next

  56. No sources in the description 🙁

  57. Granted by who. LOL Oh yes, the people who gave them the ok, didn't own any of it.

  58. Pretty good , bunch of thieves and liars.

  59. Calgary’s wasn’t built around a Hudson’s bay trading post it was built around a RCMP fort and it was Edmonton who was built around a Hudson’s bay post

  60. got my watch fixed bought shoes and a new shirt yesterday from the bay at oakridge 😀

  61. Don't call the manifest destiny murderers, heroes.

  62. Shame on the Hudson Bay !!! I refuse to shop at this time honoured retailer on the despicable affiliation with Ivanka Trump ….GET HER OUT OF CANADA !!!! anything to do with this racist family and their lying fake president has to go !!!

  63. I like how he puts a picture of the battle of New Orleans and replaces the flag flying over the battle with a French instead of American.

  64. The Hudson Bay is the Gate to the North-West-Passage, sometimes blocked by ice on the Sea. But the ice could be under-rounded by trade submarines like for example the Typhoon Class (the Antonow of the submarines), much bigger than each airplane could be and dive under ice-layors of a few hundred metres making a dream of humanity real. Many truck loadings could be loaded there on, not as on a Triple-E, but many, as on river-transport boats (Danubia, Rhine etc.)
    The economy-geografics are to find the best and most efficiant route for that purpose.

  65. I really did like this channel! The past week I’ve been bingeing on videos of a new business I had never thought of having a great history. Knowing the history of HBC quite well has made me second guess if all the other videos are as lazy and rushed.

  66. What built North America…

  67. lol in Roblox it's a militia

  68. to hell with your company

  69. It’s amazing how Walmart with its cheap low quality products just gobbles up everything in every market it enters, they recently killed off Sears for good in Canada where they actually sold pretty decent clothing and winter attires that last.

  70. beside a youtube channel should also have a blog so we can read before the youtube video less work also

  71. My wife worked in HBC sales. She told me HBC also get very cheap junk from China. When employees unload trucks – they have skin rush because all of the goods are very dirty and covered with factory dust.

  72. Hmm YouTube weird how I was just watching a show on Netflix about hbc and didn’t google anything about it but had my phone near the speakers…

  73. I shop there, they sell premium to high end products. I shop there when they have sales and clearance sales, usually great deal even up to 80% off regular prices.

  74. Hey , Please make a video on De Beers Company

  75. Frontier anyone!!!!!!

  76. Omgosh Half-breed is not the right language to use. Proper word would be Métis or Michif.

  77. Roblox the northern frontier hbc lol

  78. I clicked on this cuz of roblox game Northern Frontier 😂 anyone else did the same ?

  79. northern frontier roblox

  80. Who does also play TNF? just leave a like so ik

  81. if you are a roblox the northern frontier player: you'll be thinking it is a military group

  82. The map at 0:45 does not show the correct countries for the European locations. In 2017, HBC Europe was active in Germany (GALERIA Kaufhof, Saks 5TH OFF), Belgium (GALERIA Inno) and the Netherlands (Hudson's Bay, Saks 5TH OFF) – and was also plans to enter the market of Luxembourg (GALERIA Inno). However, HBC was not active in Switzerland.

  83. This is the first time I clicked on a sponsor of a video. This is amazing.

  84. Any one here from TNF?

  85. ROBERT LORD is my anceator. I did not know till recently.I hope to help my LORD family regain the ststus it lost…..IF I had a CLUE earlier in my 77 years I could have helped. Big business… all they do is steal. As verified LORD ancestor I hope to track down misdeeds and punish. Just sayin watch he fuck out for ME Robert (Bob)SNARE/LORD…

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