Timothy Eaton

By Joanne Tuan


Today individuals take these 3 generous offerings when shopping for granted – fixed prices, price tags, and money back guarantees. But not many will know where these 3 things originated from. This all generated from the visionary brain of Timothy Eaton. Timothy Eaton was Canadian business man who founded Eaton’s; a department store in 1883, which is one of the most important retail businesses in Canadian history.

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A depiction of the original Eaton's store in Toronto

What Timothy Eaton was involved in that made him a leader

Timothy was involved in having his own dry foods store on December 8th, 1869 in Toronto. Shortly after, later he opened his first department store; the T. Eaton Co. Limited, it was a start of a retail revolution. On the opening day of his first store he promoted the never before heard of “We propose to sell out goods for cash only. In selling goods to have only one price”. With this being said, normal customers where curious yet intrigued. Therefore the Eaton’s Company introduced Canadians the idea of cash sales, one fixed price, and a money back policy. Not only did Timothy Eaton brought quality goods at fair prices, but also fair labour practices and customer services. He used the one fair price tactic because whether you were a naïve child or a slick businessman, you rely on one price, service or guarantee. Timothy made this company because he wanted to make affordable merchandise for everybody around Canada which led him to be a fair a respectable leader.

Actions Timothy took to show leadership

Timothy Eaton showed leadership when he introduced the mail order catalogue in Canada, reached thousands of small towns and rural communities with a wide selection of products that were previously out of reach. In tiny communities, it was a huge craze. The catalogue had products ranging through a clothing, furniture, or new kitchen gadgets. Timothy came out with the catalogue to show that he cared about others who did not live in the area or those who couldn’t afford other competitive stores prices. The company had reached it high point during World War ll, when the company employed 70,000 people. He wanted to employ 70,000 people because they wanted to expand coast to coast so not many people would have to keep using the catalogue and they can get the real shopping experience at T. Eaton Co. Limited.

The mail order catalogue

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Three leadership traits Timothy applied

While being along the lines of Mandela’s eight lessons of leadership, Timothy Eaton portrayed some of the leadership traits such as:

Know your ememy and learn his favourite sport.

As a leader, it is important to bring your friends or team together and understand your enemies. Timothy Eaton developed competition once his competitors found out what he was doing. It was at the time where he started to pay attention to his competitors. It helped him learn what their strategies were, so he could come up with his own ideas and strategies in order to make his company stay on top. Unfortunately this only worked for a short amount of time because soon after, his competition increased dramatically in the 1990’s and a loss of profit resulted. T. Eaton Co. Limited eventually went bankrupt and the stores were then bought by Sears Company.

Quitting is a way of leading too

A leader must know when to stop and let others have a turn leading. During the establishment of the T. Eaton CO where he took a step back and let his son, John Craig Eaton run the business. Timothy thought this was a smart idea because when Timothy passes away, there would be someone trained and experienced enough to run the management.

Courage is not the absence of fear – its inspiring others to move beyond it.

Timothy had shown this by being courageous that he had a good idea and was going to do it no matter what others had to say about it. He inspired others by showing them if you have an idea don’t be afraid to go with it when others say no. Timothy was not the first person to come up with the idea of the department store, nor was he the first retailer in the world to supply customers with a money back guarantee; T. Eaton Co. Limited popularized both the concept of retail and revolutionized retailing in Canada.

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