What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“HENRY REEVES, & Co. … hope the continuance of their friends favours.”
Henry Reeves and Company pursued a new enterprise in the wake of the partnership Reeves, Wise, and Poole coming to an end. Reeves and Company acquired the remaining inventory of the former partnership, “consisting of a compleat assortment of goods, suitable to the season,” which they offered for sale “on the most reasonable terms.” They also let potential customers know that they operated at two locations, a store on Church Street in Charleston and another store in Pon Pon, a settlement to the southwest of the busy port.
As one partnership concluded and another began, Reeves and Company aimed to serve a clientele that had already been established and cultivated: they “hope the continuance of their friends favours, as well as those of the late copartnership.” To some extent, they invoked a form of brand loyalty by inviting potential customers already familiar with and satisfied by the goods formerly offered by Reeves, Wise, and Poole to continue shopping with Reeves and Company. However, given that the partnership did not produce the merchandise it sold, this precursor to brand loyalty especially depended instead on customer service and relationships established with the proprietors. Note that Reeves and Company referred to “friends” rather than “customers.” They were not the only advertisers to do so. In the same issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Samuel Wise announced that he had “declined business for the present” and intended to travel to England. Unlike Reeves and Company, Wise did not promote any merchandise. Instead, he wished to settle affairs with former customers who still owed money on their accounts. As part of his announcement, he “beg[ged] leave to return his thanks for the favours of his friends.” Other advertisements for consumer goods and services did not invoke the language of friendship.
In the decade before the Revolution, advertisers sometimes addressed customers as friends, doing so most often at times of transition, such as the creation of a new partnership or in the process of settling accounts. This softened the hard edges of the marketplace by reframing existing obligations and potential interactions at times when changes in circumstances made advertisers most vulnerable to financial difficulties.