From Mail-Order Catalogues to e-Commerce


The Eaton’s catalogue, your great grandmother’s favourite way to shop, was the place to advertise products to the biggest population. For decades (until the 70s), it flourished and made the Eaton family one of the wealthiest in Canada -- until they went bankrupt in the 90s, owing millions of dollars in debt. Thankfully, Sears was around to buy out their name, and the competition out completely, remaining successful even up until recently with their retail stores and catalogue sales. The closing of Sears’ centre’s across Canada --once a popular place to shop-- is a sign that shopping has revolutionized from the catalogue days. The Big Book was discontinued in 1993 and the Wish Book is now leaving with the company. The somewhat success of online sales for Sears was clearly not enough to keep them out of bankruptcy, which they filed for last June.

Now both a thing of history and memories, it may be difficult to find hard copies of the oldest Eaton and Sears catalogues, but Google is packed full of some charming and sometimes hilarious advertisements that worked back in the early 20th century (and still would work for many of us today).

Since the early 00s, online shopping has been the reliable and quick way to make your purchases. Many websites are unreliable, though, or solely exist only to keep your money and send nothing in return. But, now there are more legislations, both domestically and internationally, in place to keep your purchases and credit card information secure. Unlike the trust that was built with physical catalogue shopping, It can still be a risk when purchasing items online, especially from overseas.

Christmas shopping can now be done with a click of a button.

Almost every 80s and 90s kid’s favourite day, other than Santa’s arrival, was the arrival of the Sears Wishbook, just like the Eaton’s catalogue was to generations before. Hours were spent of our childhoods circling everything we wanted in bright coloured markers. Malls and big box stores were packed with holiday shoppers (another favourite pastime for some of us). Now, online holiday shopping has made a huge explosion and has taken over online purchases in the months of November and December.

67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop online rather than in-store,” says an article on titled Ecommerce Trends of 2017. According to a survey by Statscan, the amounts of orders made online by Canadians in 2007 (and remember this was 10 years ago; it has most definitely sky rocketed since then) was almost 70 million individual orders, up from 13.4 million household orders in 2003.  Cyber Monday was the biggest ever last year, topping 3 billion dollars in American sales alone. Amazon took first place with over 30% of those online sales.

With the world becoming dependant on anything that eases our busy lifestyles, the vast world within the internet can only get bigger.  


What are your favourite memories of catalogue shopping? Where do you see e-commerce heading? Let us know.


Kimberley Falk - Multimedia Writer