The Northwest Company is a Canadian retail giant engaged in the area of general merchandise and grocery. Its subsidiary, Cost-U-Less stores operate in Canada and in some parts of the United States as well.
The Northwest Company started out as a business involved in trading fur. This business was first established in British-North America’s Montreal. The business of fur trading started in 1779 and went on until 1821, when the North West Company merged with Hudson’s Bay Company.
After the merger was completed, the new company owned about 7.77 million square kilometers of land, plus more that 170 trading posts. By 1881, instead of sticking only with fur trading, the company was slowly expanding its scope. It started focusing on the development of agricultural land, for one. It also started to engage in cash-based retailing, as well as rail transportation.
In 1935, the company introduced radiotelephone technology, which made it possible for stores and headquarters to communicate. This new technology broadened the company’s scope even more. As technology rapidly advanced, so did customers’ demands. This in turn led the company to develop major innovations to improve the business and serve its customers better.
Before the 1950s, The Northwest Company had become an important trader of what is called Inuit art. This kind of art involved in the production of artistic creations that were perfect decorations for everyday clothes and other items, such as lightweight tools. Inuit Art appealed to international collectors, so the company was successful when it decided to engage in the sale of the merchandise. Even today, The Northwest Company is still a wholesaler of this kind of art.
In the middle part of the 1980s, the Northern Stores division of the company had 178 stores, a majority of which were previously used as trading posts. In 1987, a group of investors bought this division and they named it The Northwest Company. Currently, the North West Company is considered one of the longest-operating retail enterprises worldwide.
In 1990, The Northwest Company introduced the Northern name banner. This was done as a part of creating a new name for former HBC Northern stores, which offered general merchandise and food to the rural northern Canadian communities. In 1992, the company again introduced another banner for another of its retail chains, the AC Value Center. North Mart and Giant Tiger were also banners for retail businesses that were introduced by the Northwest Company. Its newest banner, Cost-U-Less, was acquired by the company in 2007. All of these businesses are still operating and are still under The Northwest Company’s ownership. These stores are found in Canada and in different parts of the world as well.
Headquarters: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Ownership Type: Public
Employees: About 6,800
Geography: Canada, Alaska, the Pacific, the Caribbean
Demography: Retail grocery, general merchandise
Northern, Giant Tiger, Cost-U-Less, North Mart, AC