What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“All GENTLEMEN may therefore save themselves a great deal of trouble.”
John Ward, a tailor, advanced a variety of marketing appeals in his advertisement aimed at “All GENTLEMEN” in Charleston, but convenience was foremost among them. Ward detailed how he imported textiles and “trimmings of all colours.” Clients did not need to obtain fabrics from shopkeepers and then contract with a tailor to make their garments. Ward considered that system “a great deal of trouble.” By constructing clothing from the materials he sold in his workshop, Ward saved his customers all of the hassle of going from shop to shop. This also streamlined the process because clients had only one bill rather than “so many different bills for their clothes.” Furthermore, Ward offered the convenience of knowing exactly how much his garments cost, making it unnecessary for prospective customers to do all kinds of tabulations based on which materials they might purchase from which retailers. Ward announced that he “fixes the price of a suit of clothes … from FORTY-FIVE to FIFTY POUNDS currency a suit.”
Realizing that all of this convenience mattered little if the price did not match the rates set by competitors or if potential clients suspected inferior quality, Ward made certain to address those concerns. His supplier on the other side of the Atlantic, described as “as good a judge [of dry goods] as any in England,” purchased the textiles and trimmings “upon the very best terms.” This, in turn, allowed Ward “to sell much lower than the common advance.” Customers who wished to acquire fabrics got a deal when they bought from Ward rather than local shopkeepers. Those who also wanted those fabrics made into garments could “have their clothes made near as cheap as can be sent from England.” Ward acknowledged a slight premium for the convenience he provided, presumably a price worth paying to work directly with a local tailor who could take his own measurements and make adjustments and repairs on the spot. In terms of quality, he also used superlatives to describe his materials: “best superfine London dress’d BROAD-CLOTHS,” “superfine plush,” and “the very best of silk and worsted breeches pieces.”
John Ward marketed convenience in acquiring materials, having garments made, and paying bills, but not at the cost of other considerations important to prospective clients. As he promoted convenience, he simultaneously made traditional appeals to price and quality to reassure skeptical consumers.