The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1680. You know how I know that? Because they tell you so.
For the blissfully ignorant, the Hudson’s Bay Company in its current iteration is a shitty department store, usually addended to a shopping mall surrounded by a parking lagoon. It specializes in selling Canadiana and credit cards, which would be fine if the Canadiana products weren’t overpriced made-in-China shit being used to shill for just about anything. Including such fantastic products as $200 toasters with temperature settings and chinawares named after really rich white people, the HBC is almost entirely dependent on its status as a piece of Canadian history.
You know what’s amazing? When brutalist shopping malls constitute part of your national identity. I’m sure that’s totally normal, right? Like the National Mal-oh, what’s that? It’s a mall in the old sense of the word and not a cemetary where the bones of excitement gather dust? Oh damn. If Canada were any good at being a country you would think that one of Canada’s many contextless history-baubles would look slightly less like compacted yak shit.
What’s even worse is that the history of this sad-sack department store wannabe is actually really important to Canada’s development. Moose Factory, the former headquarters of the Company, was an essential point in the fur trade. Canada was more or less claimed on the basis of furs, fish, and other extractive resources. The Company was a key part of setting Canada’s economy to a useless yoke of endless, mindless extraction for the benefit of others. Perhaps this point might be important in a country that is notoriously shitty at manufacturing? Nah – credit cars and parking lagoons please!
And it’s not like the Bay does well at being a department store, either. They shit on their workers with low wages and constant pushes to sign people up for credit cards (exactly what upscale shoppers love – credit card pitches!). They try to sell Canadiana tat that comes from China so as to increase their profit margins. It can’t make money even when it can boost sales. And it’s almost wholly reliant on sales and clearance events – anything that can convince people to cross the parking lagoon and enter their massive stores.
A city-deforming, poorly-run, tat-selling pile of Canadiana bullshit is a perfect example of Canadians ignoring the obvious problems in favor of history-baubles. The stores are shit and American options are generally vastly superior, but somehow the Bay manages to limp on. Canadians can be counted on to buy the crappy mittens “to support our atheletes” and then can be counted on to lose or forget about the tat they bought. They’ll wade through sketchy credit card pitches done by desperate low-wage workers because it’s the Canadian store and that’s the Canadian thing to do. Improving work conditions and corporate culture to make the store actually enjoyable to visit and worth shopping in, you say? Fuck that – we’ve gotta keep the Bay, but it doesn’t actually have to be useful or anything.