Welcome, savvy Canadian shoppers, to a journey through time and retail! Have you ever wondered about the origins of your favorite department stores in Canada? How did these shopping havens become, shaping our retail landscape and transforming how we shop?

Join us as we uncover the fascinating chronological timeline of each department store’s arrival in the Great White North. From humble beginnings to iconic institutions, prepare to be amazed by the stories behind the storefronts!

Buckle up! We’re about to embark on a historical journey through the sales that defined eras and revolutionized how Canadians shop.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • The evolution of department store sales in Canada
  • Insider secrets to help you maximize your savings
  • Essential tips for navigating seasonal sales like a pro
  • Historical highlights of iconic sales events
  • Expert advice on leveraging online discount codes for extra savings

The Early Pioneers

Hudson’s Bay Company (1670)

Hudson’s Bay Company’s journey began long before the term “department store” was coined. Established as a fur trading post, the Hudson’s Bay Company evolved into a retail powerhouse, marking its presence across Canada. It laid the foundation for Canadian retail, offering various products, from household goods to luxury items.

  • Key Milestones: Transition from fur trading to retail, establishment of flagship stores.
  • Historical Impact: Influenced trade routes and economic development in Canada.

Tip: Check out today’s Hudson’s Bay coupons.

Holt Renfrew (1837)

Holt Renfrew started as a modest hat shop in Quebec City and became a luxury destination synonymous with elegance and sophistication. Holt Renfrew’s commitment to quality and exclusivity captured the hearts of discerning shoppers and established it as a beacon of luxury retail in Canada.

  • Key Milestones: Expansion into high fashion, opening of flagship stores.
  • Historical Impact: Set the standard for luxury retail in Canada.

T. Eaton Company (1869)

Timothy Eaton’s visionary approach revolutionized the retail landscape. With the opening of his first store in Toronto, Eaton laid the foundation for a retail empire that would shape Canadian shopping habits for generations. Eaton’s innovative strategies, such as fixed pricing and money-back guarantees, built consumer trust and set new retail standards.

  • Key Milestones: Introduction of fixed prices, first catalog publication.
  • Historical Impact: Fostered consumer confidence and changed shopping norms.

The Rise of National Chains

Sears Canada (1953)

Riding on the success of its American counterpart, Sears Canada emerged as a household name, offering everything from appliances to apparel. Its catalog became a staple in Canadian homes, fueling a culture of convenience and choice.

  • Key Milestones: Launch of the Sears catalog, expansion into suburban areas.
  • Historical Impact: Brought convenience and variety to Canadian consumers.

Tip: Check out today’s Hudson’s Bay coupons.

The Bay’s Expansion (20th Century)

Building on its rich heritage, Hudson’s Bay Company continued to expand its footprint, cementing its status as a retail icon. From flagship stores to suburban outlets, The Bay remained a cornerstone of Canadian retail, adapting to changing consumer needs.

  • Key Milestones: Opening of new stores and introduction of modern retail practices.
  • Historical Impact: Maintained relevance in a changing retail landscape.

Woolco (1960s)

As the suburban landscape flourished, Woolco capitalized on the growing demand for affordable goods. With its vast selection and competitive prices, Woolco became a go-to destination for families across Canada.

  • Key Milestones: Expansion into major cities and introduction of discount pricing.
  • Historical Impact: Made affordable shopping accessible to suburban families.
Department StoreYear Established in CanadaKey Milestones
Sears Canada1953Opening of new stores and introduction of modern retail practices.
Hudson’s Bay Company20th CenturyExpansion into major cities and introduction of discount pricing.
Woolco1960sExpansion into major cities and the introduction of discount pricing.

The Modern Era

Walmart Canada (1994)

The retail landscape underwent a seismic shift with Walmart’s arrival. Offering unbeatable value and unparalleled convenience, Walmart reshaped consumer expectations and set new industry standards.

  • Key Milestones: Opening the first Canadian store and introducing low prices in everyday life.
  • Historical Impact: Revolutionized the retail sector with competitive pricing.

Target’s Brief Stint (2013)

Target entered the Canadian market with much fanfare and anticipation, aiming to replicate its American success. However, faced with logistical challenges and fierce competition, Target’s Canadian adventure was short-lived.

  • Key Milestones: Opening and closing of Canadian stores.
  • Historical Impact: Highlighted the challenges of cross-border retail expansion.

Simons’ Innovation (1840s & 1952)

Founded in Quebec City, Simons has been a beacon of style and innovation for over a century. Combining tradition with modernity, Simons continues to captivate shoppers with its curated collections and avant-garde approach.

  • Key Milestones: Expansion into major cities, introduction of innovative sales strategies.
  • Historical Impact: Balanced tradition with modern retail practices.

Tip: Check out today’s Simon’s Canada coupons.

The Birth of Department Store Sales

Eaton’s, founded in 1869 by Timothy Eaton, was a trailblazer in Canadian retail. Its famous Santa Claus Parade, which began in 1905, was a beloved holiday tradition and a strategic move to kickstart the Christmas shopping season. The parade, combined with Eaton’s extensive Christmas catalog, turned the store into a holiday shopping destination

1. Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade

Eaton’s wasn’t just about sales; it was about creating experiences. The Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade, first held in 1905, brought magic to the streets of Toronto and later inspired similar parades across the country. This annual event drew crowds and fostered a sense of community, making Eaton a household name.

  • Key Milestones: The inaugural parade and expansion to other cities.
  • Historical Impact: Created a community tradition and boosted holiday sales.

2. Hudson’s Bay’s Bay Days

These semi-annual sales became synonymous with deep discounts and unbeatable deals. First introduced in the early 1900s, Bay Days have evolved but remain a key event for Canadian shoppers.

  • Key Milestones: Introduction of Bay Days, evolution over time.
  • Historical Impact: Consistent driver of sales and customer loyalty.

3. Eaton’s Warehouse Sales

These sales were legendary for their deep discounts on surplus and out-of-season merchandise. Held in massive warehouses, they attracted thousands of bargain hunters.

  • Key Milestones: Inception of warehouse sales, growth in popularity.
  • Historical Impact: Set the standard for clearance sales and surplus goods.

4. Simpson’s White Sale

Simpson’s, which eventually merged with Hudson’s Bay in 1978, was known for its innovative sales strategies. One of the store’s most famous events was the Simpson’s White Sale, featuring deep discounts on linens and household items.

  • Key Milestones: Introduction of White Sale and merger with HBC.
  • Historical Impact: Influenced seasonal sales strategies in Canada.

5. Morgan’s Spring Sale

Morgan’s, a major player in Quebec’s retail scene until HBC bought it in the 1960s, was known for its luxurious shopping experience and grand sales events. This sale marked the arrival of new spring fashions and home decor.

  • Key Milestones: Launch of Spring Sale, acquisition by HBC.
  • Historical Impact: Set trends for seasonal fashion and home decor.

The Golden Age: Sales that Shaped Shopping

Black Friday 

The term “Black Friday” originally referred to the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, marking the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers offer significant discounts, and it’s traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The concept migrated to Canada as retailers sought to capitalize on the consumer frenzy.

  • Key Milestones: The introduction of Black Friday in Canada and its growth in popularity.
  • Historical Impact: Created a pre-Christmas shopping surge.
  • Comparative Analysis: Comparing Boxing Day and Black Friday sales trends in Canada.

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday, which follows Black Friday and focuses on online deals, also gained popularity in Canada around the same time. As e-commerce grew, Canadian retailers began offering Cyber Monday sales to attract online shoppers.

  • Key Milestones: Growth of Cyber Monday in Canada, the rise of e-commerce.
  • Historical Impact: Shifted consumer behavior towards online shopping.
  • Tips: Sign up for our newsletters to receive early access to deals, and use price comparison tools to ensure you’re getting the best price.

Boxing Day: The Ultimate Shopping Extravaganza

Every Canadian knows Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, as a shopping marathon. Originating in the UK, it became a beloved tradition in Canada in the 20th century. Stores slash prices, often up to 70%, and shoppers queue for hours to grab the best deals. It’s not just a sale; it’s an event.

  • Key Milestones: The adoption of Boxing Day in Canada has evolved into a major sales event.
  • Historical Impact: Boosted post-Christmas retail sales and consumer spending.
  • Tips: List desired items beforehand and set a budget to avoid impulse buys.

Major Canadian Department Store Sales Events

EventDescriptionNotable StoresImpact
Boxing DayPost-Christmas sales event with deep discounts.HBC, Sears, Best BuyHigh foot traffic, major sales
Black FridayPre-Christmas sales originating from the U.S.Walmart, Amazon, CostcoGrowing popularity, cross-border competition
Cyber MondayOnline sales event following Black Friday.Amazon, Best Buy, WalmartIncreasing online purchases, tech-focused deals
Back-to-SchoolSales event for school supplies and apparel.Staples, Walmart, HBCBoost in retail sales, seasonal shopping spike

Transformations Through Time: The Evolution of Sales Strategies

From Flyers to Digital Deals

The way department stores advertise their sales has changed dramatically. While flyers were once the primary method, today’s digital landscape offers a multitude of platforms, from email newsletters to social media ads.

  • Historical Evolution: From print ads to digital marketing.

Loyalty Programs and Tech Revolution

Loyalty programs have become a significant aspect of department store sales strategies. Stores offer points, discounts, and exclusive offers to retain customers and drive repeat business. Technology plays a crucial role in personalizing these programs.

  • Growth of Loyalty Programs: Introduction and expansion of programs like HBC Rewards.
  • Impact of Technology: Data analytics and mobile apps enhance customer experience.
  • Examples: Success stories of loyalty programs in Canadian department stores.

Detailed Evolution of Department Store Sales Strategies

EraAdvertising MethodKey FeaturesNotable Events/InnovationsImpact on Consumers
Late 19th CenturyWord of Mouth, FlyersFixed prices, Money-back guaranteesEaton’s fixed pricing (1869), HBC’s fur trade networkCreated trust and consistency in pricing
Early 20th CenturyFlyers, CataloguesGrand opening sales, Community engagement eventsEaton’s Santa Claus Parade (1905)Fostered community spirit and brand loyalty
1920s-1940sNewspapers, Radio AdsHoliday sales, Expansion of product linesIntroduction of department store catalogsEnabled consumers to shop from home, increased accessibility
1950s-1970sTV, Radio AdsSeasonal sales, Introduction of credit facilitiesBoxing Day Sales, HBC Blanket SaleEncouraged post-holiday shopping, linked sales to cultural events
1980s-1990sDirect Mail, TV, NewspapersLoyalty programs, Exclusive member discountsIntroduction of loyalty programs, Special sale days (e.g., Customer Appreciation Day)Enhanced customer retention through rewards, personalized shopping experience
The early 2000sOnline Ads, Email NewslettersFlash sales, Cyber Monday, Social media promotionsCyber Monday, Black Friday Expansion to CanadaShifted focus to online shopping, increased urgency with time-limited deals
2010sMobile Apps, Social MediaPersonalized marketing, Influencer partnershipsApp-based discounts, Social media campaigns, Online-exclusive dealsProvided convenience and customization, influenced by social proof
2020sAI and Data Analytics, Omnichannel MarketingHyper-personalized offers, Seamless online and offline integrationAI-driven recommendations, Virtual shopping assistants, Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS)Elevated the shopping experience with technology, improved customer engagement and satisfaction


As we journey through the rich tapestry of Canada’s department store sales history, it’s clear that these events are more than just opportunities to snag a bargain—they’re woven into the fabric of Canadian culture. From the nostalgic charm of Eaton’s Anniversary Sales and the festive frenzy of Boxing Day to the modern marvels of Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day, these sales have continuously evolved, adapting to the times while keeping the thrill of the hunt alive.

At Dealhack Canada, we’re passionate about helping you navigate this ever-evolving landscape. Whether you’re a seasoned bargain hunter or a novice deal seeker, we’re here to provide you with the latest shopping hacks, discount codes, and expert advice. So, gear up for the next big sale, and may your cart always be filled with savings!


What are the most iconic department store sales in Canadian history?

The most iconic sales include Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade and semi-annual sales, Simpson’s Bargain Basement, Hudson’s Bay Company’s Bay Days, and Sears Canada’s Wish Book promotions.

When did the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade begin?

The Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade began in 1905, becoming a beloved holiday tradition and a kickoff for Eaton’s legendary sales.

What is Bay Days?

Hudson’s Bay Company organizes a biannual sale event called Bay Days, during which various products, including home goods and fashion, are marked down significantly.

How did Simpson’s Bargain Basement revolutionize shopping?

Simpson’s Bargain Basement, introduced in the 1930s, offered heavily discounted goods and clearance items, attracting thrifty shoppers and setting a trend for dedicated discount sections in stores.

What made the Sears Wish Book special?

The Sears Wish Book, first published in 1953, was a holiday catalog filled with toys, gadgets, and gifts. It became a holiday tradition for Canadian families, helping them plan their Christmas shopping with its wide range of products and deals.

Are any of these historic department stores still operating today?

Hudson’s Bay Company is still operating and is a major player in Canadian retail. However, Eaton’s, Simpson’s, and Sears Canada have closed their doors.

What kind of discounts can I expect during Bay Days?

During Bay Days, discounts can reach up to 70% on various products, making it one of Canadian shoppers’ most anticipated sales events.

Where can I learn more about the history of Canadian department stores?

For more in-depth information, consider visiting local libraries, museums, and archives or exploring online resources dedicated to Canadian retail history.

What impact did Eaton’s and Simpson’s have on Canadian shopping culture?

Eaton’s and Simpson’s set the standard for customer service, innovative sales strategies, and creating shopping experiences that went beyond mere transactions. They became cultural landmarks and shaped the retail landscape in Canada.