The North West Company - Protecting the Traditions of the North
One of Prince Albert’s oldest retailers resides on the shore of the North Saskatchewan River. The North West Company store on River St. here in Prince Albert is just one store in a group of northern trading posts owned and operated by their parent company, The North West Company. The North West Company also owns the retail chain “Giant Tiger”.
The lineage of The North West Trading Company goes back before the birth of the province. As early as 1778 the NWC was a major rival to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Both companies provided hunters and trappers of the first Canadian settlements a place to buy, sell and trade. In 1821 the two companies amalgamated. The combined forces of two former rivals allowed the HBC to grow into the juggernaut retail company that it is today.
The Hudson's Bay Company has a long lineage in Prince Albert. The HBC office and stores were a cornerstone of the Prince Albert business community from Prince Albert’s early beginnings well into the mid 1900s. In 1959 the Hudson’s Bay Company established the North Stores Department - controlling all of the company’s northern fur trading posts.
Around this time, the Hudson’s Bay Company shifted its focus from the fur trade to its department stores. The HBC made efforts to update the North Stores Department to match the HBC’s modern mandate by putting less focus on fur trade and incorporating more general merchandise. While the North Stores Department was a profitable part of the HBC’s portfolio, the HBC was ready to move on from the traditions of the past.
In 1987 the Hudson's Bay Company made the controversial decision to get out of the fur trade business. The HBC sold the 178 stores in their North Stores Department - including its operations here in Prince Albert - to a group of investors which included employees and management.
With rejuvenated focus on keeping the traditions of the trading post alive, the group operated as “Hudson’s Bay Company’s North Stores” from 1987 to 1990. In 1990 the group of 178 former Hudson’s Bay Company trading posts and stores reopened their doors as The North West Company.
Today, The North West Company store here in Prince Albert is held in legendary regard. The stores walls are filled will art, fur, crafts and materials produced right here in northern Saskatchewan. The North West Company is a true vestige of a forgotten time. The store, located less than a block away from the Prince Albert Historical Museum, carries the storied history of both the HBC and the NWC. While the Hudson’s Bay Company may not have seen the value in preserving the historic traditions of the north, the North West Company has stepped in to protect it. The North West Company’s history is one of Canada’s most interesting and perhaps underappreciated stories.
So whether you’re a local resident of Prince Albert who needs authentic materials for your arts and crafts, or you’re a visitor to our fair city who’s interested in purchasing a true souvenir from your time here in the north, the North West Company is one place you definitely need to check out!
North West Company
45 River St Prince Albert SK