In Toronto, at the corner of Gerard Street and Hamilton, a business opportunity came about for brothers John W. and Alfred J. Billes in 1922. A company that had been established in 1909 was available for purchase.
Sharing a combined savings account of $1.800, the two entrepreneurs bought the Hamilton Tire and Garage Ltd, setting the foundation of what was to become in time a well-established, well run, and one of the most accomplished retailing businesses in the country.
First years in the retailing business
After the Hamilton Tire and Garage Ltd business was sold in 1923, the company rebranded as Canadian Tire Corporation and moved to a new location.
What today is the Canadian Tire flyer, appeared for the first time in 1928 as the Canadian Tire catalogue. That first published edition featured tire items with “record-breaking” prices on one side and a roadmap of Ontario and adjacent territory on the other side. It was a catalogue in a 24″ by 10″ format, distributed to car owners in Southern Ontario, and it was the first of many thriving business initiatives. Into the 1940s, the mail-order business was a huge company success.
By 1939, Canadian Tire was already operating a network of 71 stores, and with the opening of an associate store in Hamilton, Ontario in 1934, the business set the way for a dealer-operated network that was to expand in the following years to greater length.
Establishing Canadian Tire money
The company introduced the loyal program in 1958, for the first time issuing discount coupons to customers at Canadian Tire gas bars, the first of which opened that same year in Toronto. Later into the 1960s, the Canadian Tire money extended to the stores as well.
The coupons resembled real Canadian currency and featured a male character, supposedly a prosperous Scotsman who has remained a prominent nonetheless fictional mascot in the Canadian culture to this day due to the popularity of the program.
The cash bonus coupons made the Canadian Tire royalty program one of the most successful and highly regarded in Canada, CTM coupons often considered as the country’s unofficial currency. In addition to the usual bill denominations, in 2010 the company handed out a limited edition of CT coins that could be used at their stores the same as CTM coupons.
Throughout the years, Canadian Tire launched various loyalty programs, electronic currency having become more popular in today’s digital landscape, other digital strategies including the online version of the Canadian Tire weekly offers, sought to better tailor to the modern customer’s shopping.
Turning “thumb-stopping creative”
Canadian Tire introduced its online shopping model as early as 2001, and in a time when e-commerce was still trying to establish as a market, the CT online shop gained popularity rather fast.
With Canadian Tire money going digital in recent years and the Canadian Tire flyer as well pervading the online retailing landscape, further innovative operations appeared in the form of digital advertising channels with the likes of Facebook and Google.
Measuring user engagement on Facebook, Canadian Tire was able to tailor its advertising videos according to what people were watching across the channel, boosting sales through Facebook ads with an average of 50% higher in early 2015.
Duncan Fulton, who was the company’s senior vice-president at the time, agreed on the need for “thumb-stopping creative” when looking to drive sales through digital channels. Since 2013, Canadian Tire has been seeking to up its digital game after loyal customers expressed their opinion over wanting to see the company becoming more tech-friendly in the near future.
The company does run a pretty stable video category on Facebook, featuring dozens of promotional videos there and the Canadian weekly flyer as a stand-alone section.