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WOODWARD’S CREDIT OPERATIONS

 

Long before Visa and Mastercard, Woodward’s had their own credit system. In the beginning, the system required customers to place money on deposit, and an account was established that could be used for shopping. A deferred Payment Plan was also available. It required approval by the credit bureau, in some cases, and was set up for ten equal payments with a seven percent interest. Coupon books of different amounts, with coupons of various denominations, could be purchased with this plan. The coupons were used to make purchases. Later additional types of credit accounts were established: A Charge account which was expected to be billed and paid monthly. A Budget account which allowed purchases to be paid for over a period of time, requiring twenty five percent of the balance to be paid each month. A Plan account for major purchases, originally called a Lien account, which scheduled the payments over a period, typically two years.

 

Until 1964 the account cards were metal.

 

 

The advent of computer billing required new customer account numbers. A plastic card with an embossed account  number was introduced which continued the use of an imprinter to record on sales bills. At this time an IBM card sales bill was introduced to enable machine sorting and collating of sales bills since Woodwards had Country Club billing (sales bills were mailed with the statement). In 1966 all the stores were converted to this system.

 

A unique feature of Woodward’s credit operation was that it was available in the Food Floors, when no other supermarkets enjoyed this ability. In the late 1970’s twenty percent of the credit accounts purchased only food.

 

In the early 1970’s a new account called the Woodward account was introduced. It was similar to the Budget account except that it required only fifteen percent payment each month. This account was to replace the three previous types and is similar to current Visa and Mastercard.

 

When Visa and Mastercard became available in the 1970’s, Woodwards and other department stores resisted their introduction and did not contract for their use.

 

The Woodward’s credit operation was for many years the largest in western Canada. In 1980 the system had over seven hundred thousand accounts, half of which were active in any one month. Close to a million dollars per day were posted to these accounts, one third of sales, and a statement was mailed to an account, from the datacenter, every two seconds. Several hundred people worked in the credit offices. These workers were responsible for new accounts, payment receipt, and credit authorization. In Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary, issuing credit plates, customer inquiries, credit authorization, and payment collections were centralized. The Vancouver credit office received and processed all mail payments.

 

In 1987, to encourage customer loyalty and use of the credit system, a Bonus Plan was introduced which offered four to six percent rebate, depending on the amount of sales. Revenue from the credit operation was seventeen million dollars.

 

In 1989, the accounts receivable, of one hundred and seven million dollars, was sold to General Electric Capital Canada Inc.