The Big Guy vs. The Little Guy

I came across a 1919 newspaper article, talking about a case brought against some of the pattern companies, and found it interesting. The Federal Trade Commission apparently took issue with Butterick, Pictorial Review, and Standard Fashion Company, for the way that they marketed to stores who carried their patterns.

Apparently, Butterick insisted that the 20,000 stores that they contracted with would not alter the sale price set by Butterick, and that they would only carry Butterick patterns, which excluded the smaller companies completely. Likewise, Pictorial Review was sued because they said that they would only buy back out of date patterns if the suggested retail price was followed, and that the shops didn’t carry other patterns. No mention is made of why Standard Fashion Company was included in the complaint, but one would surmise that it likely was something similar.

The problem with not allowing shopkeepers to set their own prices and sell other pattern lines was that it kept so many other companies from selling to a large amount of the dry goods stores out there, and greatly affected competition. The companies refused to do business with owners who would not enter into these contracts.

Ultimately, the Federal Publishing Company, New Idea Pattern Company, and Designer Publishing Company were added to the complaint. Butterick owned a controlling amount of stock in Standard Fashion Company, New Idea and the Federal Publishing Company. In the end, the FTC dismissed the complaint without prejudice, reserving judgement to revisit it later on.

It’s an interesting insight into how the competition in pattern companies was. One has to wonder if this is why New Idea and Standard Fashion Company disappeared, as Butterick had the majority of the stock in those companies. Who knew that the sewing business could be so vicious?


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