In 1909 the concept of the “off price” store was born. Filene’s Basement was founded as a way to sell off excess merchandise.
Mr. Filene developed a revolutionary way to price merchandise called the “Automatic Mark Down System.” The price tag on each item was marked with the date it hit the selling floor. The longer an item remained unsold, the more the price would automatically be reduced, first 25%, then 50% and finally 75%. What was not sold was given to charity.
This new system guaranteed the fast flow of goods, and guaranteed bargains for consumers. Many shopped at the bargain basement strictly out of the necessity to save money. Others, no matter what their means, were compelled by the game of chance and the gamble that an item would survive until the next mark down date arrived. The lengths to which Basement shoppers went to snag a bargain: tug-of-war contests over coveted items, women changing in the aisles and shoppers trying to hide an item under other merchandise, hoping it will still be there when it hits its next markdown date.