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Building customer confidence in the automobile age: Canadian Tire 1928‐1939

Dale Miller (Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 9 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine how one Canadian retailer developed customer confidence in the interwar years when the automobile was in its infancy. The emphasis is on products and product information in the mail‐order catalogue.


The research design strategy draws on a longitudinal case study research using primary archival data collection and analysis.


In the 1930s, the firm used multiple approaches to respond to opportunities and challenges and to reassure customers through product assortment, guarantees, branding, quality assurance and support services. Generating an extensive mail‐order business occurred in tandem with the opening of stores, and together these approaches created rapid growth. In the early years, the emphasis was on maintenance, repairs and some augmentation through accessories. From the mid‐to late 1930s, with easing economic conditions, the focus shifts from automobile functionality to include roles for leisure and sport products, and the injunction to engage with the Canadian countryside.


The paper uses original historical research to contribute a new way of understanding how retailers developed customer confidence. The study contributes to knowledge about Canadian retailing in the interwar years, and the means for building customer confidence using a range of marketing techniques. For researchers, the study demonstrates a further example of the efficacy of using archival materials to explore marketing questions.



Miller, D. (2011), "Building customer confidence in the automobile age: Canadian Tire 1928‐1939", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 302-328.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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