What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“At such Rates as may encourage all Retailers in Town and Country … to complete their Assortments.”
Smith and Atkinson encouraged shopkeepers in and near Boston to augment their inventories for the fall season. In an advertisement that appeared in several newspapers in September 1773, the merchants announced that they carried a “large and general Assortment of Piece GOODS, suitable for the FALL TRADE” that they “Imported in sundry Vessels lately arrived from England.” These were not leftovers from last year, Smith and Atkinson suggested, but instead new merchandise to enhance the offerings of “all Retailers in Town and Country.” Those prospective customers needed such items “to complete their Assortments” and attract the attention of consumers. They knew that shopkeepers emphasized providing choices for consumers in their own advertisements.
For their part, Smith and Atkinson did not deal with shoppers directly. The merchants confined their business to wholesale purchases only, supplying shopkeepers with goods at advantageous prices. Smith and Atkinson proclaimed that they acquired their shipments “on the very best Terms” and planned to pass along the bargains “at such Rates as may encourage” shopkeepers to do business with them rather than their competitors. As further inducement, the merchants declared that they gave “Due Encouragement … to those who pay ready Money.” In other words, cash purchases qualified for additional discounts.
Smith and Atkinson competed with other merchants who made similar appeals while also attempting to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. In the September 30, 1773, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, James and Patrick McMasters and Company similarly advertised a “large and general Assortment of English, India, and Scotch GOODS, suitable for the Season” that they “imported in the last Ships from LONDON.” While they did not specify that they sold “by Wholesale only” like Smith and Atkinson, McMasters and Company did assert that “Town and Country Merchants and others who are pleased to favour them with their Custom, may depend on the best Usage, and handsome Allowance to those who buy by the Quantity.” They offered discounts for purchasing in volume rather than discounts for cash. Some retailers may have found that marketing strategy more appealing.
In another advertisement, Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers declared that they sold a “general Assortment of GOODS Suited to the Season … at the lowest Rates, by Wholesale or Retail.” Other merchants inserted advertisements with their own variations in their efforts to move their merchandise. They did not expect that they could merely announce that they had goods for sale and then expect retailers to purchase them. Instead, merchants devised marketing strategies to entice shopkeepers to acquire merchandise from them. In turn, shopkeepers crafted strategies for inciting demand among consumers rather than relying on incipient demand.