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Filene’s: Death of a brand, legacy not to be forgotten

The recent article about Filene’s in the Boston Globe on the removal of Filene’s department stores from the Boston retailing scene by Federated Department Stores, the ending of the brand name caused me to research some of the early history of the company.  Edward or EA Filene and Lincoln Filene were sons of German immigrants, their Father owned a store in Salem Massachusetts, and the family eventually moved to Boston.

Reading an article in the Journal of Marketing, Volume 23 page 296, from 1959 by Daniel Bloomfield for the conference on distribution in that year, Daniel wrote “Pioneers in Marketing: Edward A. Filene and Lincoln Filene”

Achievements include:

  • Advances in the methods of merchandising
  • EA Filene’s idea in 1909 implementation of the automatic bargain basement – where prices are slashed on an on sale item over a 30 day period until the item is given away to charity if not sold.
  • EA Filene’s idea in 1930 the ‘model stock plan’ – Where the idea of the plan is to have “the right goods, at the right prices, in the right quantity, in the right time.”
  • EA Filene’s book 1937 “Next steps forward in retailing” where Filene recommended companies use more fact-finding methods for research.
  • EA Filene suggested the idea of “tourist-class” transportation on ocean liners.
  • Lincoln Filene helped to found the Employment Managers Association in 1909
  • Lincoln Filene’s 1924 book “A merchant’s horizon,” where he stated that the staff of a store is the key to success management and relations with customers.
  • Lincoln suggested ideas and information should be exchanged between stores in different cities; the Retail Research Association was set up in 1916.

Both brothers were very interested in the ideas surrounding scientific management, and using research to develop new methods for marketing and retailing.  It is a sad day for Boston to lose such a historic brand.  Filene’s sold off Filene’s basement, so that name will continue in Boston at the same location in Downtown crossing.

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