What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“They are determined to sell as low for Cash as can be bought in any Part of the Province.”
George Bell and Company sold a variety of goods at their shop in Newmarket. In an advertisement in the June 11, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, Bell and Company promoted a “large and general Assortment of English, India and Scotch Goods” recently imported into the colony. To entice prospective customers, they listed some of those items, including textiles (“Calicoes, Crapes, Taffity’s, Cambricks, and Lawns, flower’d and plain”), “a fine Assortment of Ribbons of the newest Patterns,” and a “fine Assortment of crockery and hard Ware.” Bell and Company could have published an even more extensive catalog of their inventory, but they instead confided that they stocked “many other Articles, too tedious to mention” … but not too tedious for consumers to browse in their shop.
In addition to emphasizing such an array of choices, Bell and Company made an appeal to price, asserting that they “are determined to sell as low for Cash as can be bought in any Part of the Province.” Located in Newmarket, a bit to the west of Portsmouth, they sought to assure prospective customers, especially those in the countryside, that they did not need to visit the colony’s primary port to get the best bargains. Although Bell and Company may have assumed some additional expenses in transporting the imported goods to Newmarket compared to their competitors in Portsmouth, they aimed to convince consumers that they absorbed those costs rather than passing them along to their customers. Their proclamation also served as an invitation to haggle over the prices to give Bell and Company opportunities to match the deals offered at shops in Portsmouth and elsewhere in the colony. They did not explicitly state that they matched prices, but declaring that they “are determined to sell as low … as can be bought in any Part of Province” suggested that they would at least consider adjusting their prices if customers alerted them to better deals.
As was often the case in newspaper advertisements placed by colonial merchants and shopkeepers, appeals to low prices and consumer choice appeared in combination in Bell and Company’s advertisement. They gave prospective customers multiple reasons to visit their shop as part of their shopping experience.