Camden’s Retailing Problem

The year was 1927 and the future had hardly ever looked brighter for the City of Camden. Times were prosperous, business and industry were booming, and the city was full of recently constructed public buildings, civic improvements, schools, the new Delaware River bridge and its new highway to the suburbs. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed were in the unimagined future.

It was in these times that Camden prepare for its 100th anniversary, and in this spirit of optimism that the city fathers under the direction of Mayor Winfield S. Price commissioned the booklet whose text you will find below.

Read more about the first 100 years of Camden and more articles from the Centennial Mirror


The “Buy in Camden” campaign was aimed at keeping in Camden, the great flow of business which goes “shopping.” While this class of buyer may not have found in the Camden stores of ten years ago the great variety of goods which satisfies the varying wants of necessity and luxury, that condition has changed.

Camden retail stores of the present offer variety and range of price with all the usual special inducements, that are to be found in the nation’s leading retail marts.

One of the concrete evidences of the possibilities for retail merchandising in Camden may be found in the arrival of various chain store branches and the opening of a big Sears and Roebuck retail store.

When the chain cigar or grocery or shoe or drug corporation enters a field, they have satisfied themselves that a ready market exists. And the same applied to the mighty Sears and Roebuck organization. All of these have settled here.

Not only have Camden merchants made their stores and stocks modern in the last degree, but their numbers have been augmented by the corporate interests. The two changes combine in making the local retailing facilities complete.

The largest of the local department stores is “Stecker’s”, located at the city’s main business corner, Broadway and Federal Street. This store offers another example of outside interests recognizing Camden as a City of Opportunity.

The Stecker Company has a large store in Philadelphia. Logically it might be supposed that a Philadelphia store would make its drive to bring Camden buyers to its doors. But, the “Buy in Camden” campaign cut deeply into the revenues derived from South Jersey by the merchants of the City of Brotherly Love.

Stecker’s came to Camden and bought the store of Munger and Long, for many years the leading general retailers of the city. Then was begun a policy of enlargement and modernization. Several hundred thousand dollars were expended in alterations and improvements until the place looked like a different establishment. The thousands of square feet of selling space blossomed forth with the latest products of the world’s greatest marts. Prices were set to meet the Philadelphia range. where intense competition and enormous buying powers make possible the smaller profits essential to attractive bargain schedules.

The result of the arrival of “Stecker’s” was that Camden and its suburban residents came to realize that here in their midst they had a great retail store which could supply their wants in hundreds of lines, at an advantage over many places to which they were wont to travel across the Delaware.

The object of this reference to Stecker’s is not aimed at praising the store or its management (although this is highly merited) but to present one of many concrete instances in which the judgment of merchants as applied to Camden as a business center was justified by results.

In the case of the Stecker Company, the amount of business not only justified the expenditure of a quarter million dollars in improvements, but it presented so many possibilities for further increasing the business volume and class that the former manager, Robert Stecker, son of the founder of the Philadelphia organization, has after two years of intimate experience in Camden prevailed upon his father to sell him the store and business.

The Stecker experience stands forth as one of the most recent monuments to the advantages of Camden as a retail shopping center.

The Sears and Roebuck Company with its mighty organization, studied closely in the Camden territory before it decided to build a million dollar store.

This new merchandising structure is located at what is known as the new Civic Center, off the beaten path of pedestrian travel but on the direct new approach to the Delaware River Bridge.

After the store had been in operation for one year, business was one year in advance of the schedule set by executives.

Here was another justification of the decision to take advantage of the merchandising opportunities offered in the Camden field.

Advent of Sears and Roebuck into any field usually causes concern on the part of some established merchants.

Camden’s experience has been that the big Chicago store has proven an added attraction to buyers who formerly did business in Philadelphia. More suburban residents are brought into the city and thus into contact with the other retail shops.

The Hurley Store is an example of faith in Camden which has few equals. Founded years ago by William Hurley, the establishment has grown from a tiny store to a great modern establishment which will furnish a home and supply almost everything needed by its occupants.

The Hurley organization extends its operations into Pennsylvania and Delaware and from its humble beginning has become one of the great retailing factors of this section.

Still another product of the Camden forward movement is the big house and personal furnishings store recently erected by Harry Pinsky. Here may be found hundreds of articles which Camdenites formerly journeyed to Philadelphia to obtain. It is another strong link in the system of stores which is helping attract and hold Jersey buyers in Jersey.

Down on Market Street in a section where it was predicted business would be killed by the opening of the Delaware Bridge, is the department store of the Baker-Flick Company.

Pioneers among Camden retailers, this firm has enlarged and modernized until today it invites comparison with similar establishments which formerly lured the Camdenite on to a Philadelphia ferry boat.

Others of Camden’s stores might be mentioned as having joined in the modernization movement. They have added to the range of stocks and improved in quality. They have benefited by the better business which has enabled them to ‘buy in larger quantities and thus offer their patrons the benefits of lower prices.

Thousands of South Jersey buyers have come to make Camden their shopping district as a result of the general trend of merchants to cultivate their home field. And, the surface has been merely skimmed.

Wide verdant harvests remain to be gathered. Hundreds of families have yet to assimilate the “Buy in Camden” gospel, but, they are rapidly learning, with the result that business of merchants is consistently growing.

Retail merchandising in Camden is profitable when the merchant is modern and progressive.

Kresge, Woolworth, Schulte, Grant, The Horn and Hardardt Baking Co., Hanover Shoe Co., Thorn McAnn Shoes, Liggett Drug Stores, United Drug Co., in addition to the chain grocery stores, have entered the Camden field.

And they have remained.

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