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By Brian Wallheimer – The introduction of the price tag was a big step forward for American retailing, and you can thank John Wanamaker. In the 1870s, Wanamaker purchased a former Philadelphia railroad depot and expanded his men’s clothing business to include women’s clothing and dry goods.

Along with Macy’s in New York and other department stores popping up in major cities, Wanamaker’s Grand Depot revolutionized how people shopped, primarily by placing many different items under one roof. But it went a step further and changed not only where people purchased items but how they paid. It adopted the price tag.

Until that point, pricing had involved a dance between clerk and customer. When a customer picked up a shirt and admired it, a clerk had to know how much the product cost the store, the overhead associated with storing it, competitors’ prices, and more. Meanwhile, he had to figure out, was the customer in a hurry and willing to pay more, or had he come prepared to negotiate for a steeper discount?

With more than 100 product counters to staff, Wanamaker didn’t have time to teach employees the fine art of haggling. Instead, he affixed a note to every item in the store with the amount a customer was expected to pay. more>

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