The Hudson’s Bay Company began in 1670 during the reign of British King Charles II. Think of it. Charles II was the “King of the Restoration”. His reign was restoration of the monarchy. His father, Charles I, had died on the scaffold at the hands of Oliver Cromwell. 352 years later we get Charles III, and Hudson’s Bay Company is still going strong. To add more context, 1670 was only 50 years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. The United States didn’t exist yet. Toronto, the city of the company’s subsequent headquarters, didn’t get its start until 1793. It is the oldest business in Canada.
The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay became Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670. It established trading posts across Canada and played a major role in the fur trade, which was Canada’s economic backbone for centuries.
Henry Hudson and Dutch East India Company
In the 17th century, Hudson’s Bay Company had a relationship with the Dutch East India Company. Henry Hudson, who worked for the Dutch East India Company, explored North America for them. He ended up sailing up the river that now bears his name.
Hudson never found a northwest passage to Asia. However, his explorations were important for the Dutch East India Company. Dutch East India also had a shared interest in the fur trade with Hudson’s Bay Company. They occasionally cooperated with each other in North America.
HBC also developed good relationships with indigenous peoples, who they traded with. By the 18th century, it became the largest landowner in North America.
The company expanded to the Pacific Northwest and diversified its businesses in the 19th century. In the 20th century, it grew further and acquired other retail businesses. Hudson’s Bay Company now operates as Hudson’s Bay in Canada and Saks Fifth Avenue in the United States. It is sometimes referred to as “The Bay”.
HBC Through the Years
The company’s original mandate was to trade furs with the indigenous peoples of the area, particularly beaver pelts. These were in high demand in Europe for use in the manufacture of felt hats. The HBC established trading posts around Hudson Bay, which became the center of its operations.
Over the years, the HBC established trading posts in other parts of Canada and even into the western United States. It became a major player in the fur trade. It competed with other European powers such as France and Russia. Hudson’s Bay Company even survived The French and Indian War and The American Revolution.
In the early 19th century, the HBC began to diversify its operations. HBC entered the shipping industry and even investing in real estate. It also played a key role in the exploration and development of western Canada. Hudson’s Bay Company established the Red River Settlement in what is now Manitoba.
Retail Stores Appear
The HBC continued to operate as a fur trading company until the late 19th century. Then, changing fashions and the decline of the beaver population led to a decline in demand for furs. The company shifted its focus to other products, such as timber and wheat. Significantly, it also began to operate department stores in Canada and the United States. These new stores seemed to offer everything but groceries.
In the 20th century, the HBC continued to diversify its operations. It acquired a number of other companies and expanding into new areas such as oil and gas exploration. HBC also continued to operate its department stores, including the flagship Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Toronto. Hudson’s Bay Company remains one of Canada’s most iconic retailers.
Today, the Hudson’s Bay Company is a multinational retail conglomerate that operates a variety of brands and businesses. They include the Hudson’s Bay department stores, Saks Fifth Avenue, and other retailers and real estate holdings. The company remains a major player in the Canadian business landscape and a symbol of Canada’s early history.
The ownership of the Hudson’s Bay Company has changed hands several times. Here is a brief overview of the company’s ownership over time:
1670-1821: A group of English investors owned The Hudson’s Bay Company . They received a Royal Charter from King Charles II to establish a trading company in the Hudson Bay region of Canada.
1821-1869: The Hudson’s Bay Company merged with its main rival, the North West Company, after years of competition and conflict. The newly merged company continued to operate as the Hudson’s Bay Company.
1869-1912: The Hudson’s Bay Company was sold to a group of investors led by George Simpson, a former HBC governor. The company continued to expand its operations, including the establishment of department stores in Canada.
1912-1970: The Hudson’s Bay Company was sold to the Canadian retail magnate Timothy Eaton, who had built a successful department store chain of his own. Eaton ran the company as a subsidiary of his retail empire.
1970-2008: The Hudson’s Bay Company was acquired by a number of different owners over the years, including the American conglomerate Campeau Corporation and the Austrian billionaire Karl Wlaschek. During this time, the company continued to operate its department stores in Canada and the United States, as well as other businesses.
2008 and Beyond: The Hudson’s Bay Company was acquired by NRDC Equity Partners, a private equity firm, and rebranded as Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). The company has since gone through several changes in ownership and undergone a number of strategic transformations, including the acquisition of Saks Fifth Avenue and the divestment of several other brands. Today, the company is owned by a group of private equity firms and continues to operate a variety of retail brands and businesses.
Over the years, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) has divested several of its brands and businesses as part of its strategic transformation. Some of the notable divestitures include:
Lord & Taylor: In 2019, HBC sold Lord & Taylor, a department store chain based in the United States, to Le Tote, a rental clothing subscription service.
Gilt: In 2018, HBC sold Gilt, an online luxury fashion retailer, to Rue La La, another online retailer.
HBC Europe: In 2020, HBC sold its remaining interest in its European operations, which included the Galeria Kaufhof and Hudson’s Bay department store chains in Germany, to SIGNA Retail, a European real estate and retail company.
Home Outfitters: In 2019, HBC announced that it would be closing all of its Home Outfitters stores, a chain of home goods stores in Canada.
Zellers: In 2011, HBC sold the leaseholds for its Zellers stores, a discount department store chain in Canada, to Target Corporation. Target opened stores in many of the former Zellers locations, but ultimately withdrew from the Canadian market in 2015.
These divestitures were part of HBC’s efforts to streamline its operations and focus on its core businesses, including the Hudson’s Bay department store chain (The Bay), Saks Fifth Avenue, and its e-commerce operations.
- Year Started: 1670
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Group of English investors who received a Royal Charter from King Charles II
- Owner While In Use: Publicly Traded
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Hudson’s Bay Company
- Naics Code: 455110
- Location Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario, Canada