HBC: Supply Chain Department at N.A.’s Oldest Firm is a Modern Day Leader

Russ Horner    June 23, 2016

Hear ye, hear ye! It was in 1670 that Prince Rupert, cousin of King Charles II, and friends acquired the Royal Charter which granted the lands of the Hudson Bay watershed to “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay.” It was the start of the Hudson’s Bay Company – the oldest continuous running company in North America.

It was once the largest landowner in the world owning 15% of North America. For the first century of operation, natives travelled by canoe to trade animal skins for manufactured items. The supply chain was basic relative to today. By the end of 19th century people had cash and not fur to trade, fashion tastes were changing too and so did the HBC supply chain. They have outlived many of their major competitors and have battled social and economic change. But, social media has put the pressure on many retailers including HBC to change.

Social media has exploded in recent years with examples of companies not taking strict corporate social responsibility (CSR). Canadian consumers have demanded that their retailers carefully select and audit suppliers to ensure that they adhere to global standards of conduct within the supply chains that they use. HBC has included in their standards unacceptable labour practices (sweatshops) from within the supply chain, in addition to environmental responsibility, such as energy efficiency and waste reduction, efficient transportation practices, and efficient practices related to building and the operation of retail stores.

 HBC is determined to manage their supply chain based on the highest ethical principles of trust, teamwork, honesty and respect for the rights and dignities of others.  They have a zero tolerance policy on child labor, forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and transshipment.  According to World Vision, HBC has had one of the best assessments due their comprehensive and transparent reporting practises showing how they are helping to prevent child and forced labour from entering their supply chain. HBC was also nominated for a 2016 SDG Award and has accepted and/or commissioned 1,089 supplier audits in 51 countries.

Social media puts the pressure on companies to not only be good corporate citizens but also to provide the goods and services they want, when they want. Recently HBC partnered with Xcel to provide an innovative quick time response supply chain for a variety of products including one targeting millennials.  They have also made other changes since the sale of Zellers stores to Target in 2011. They have closed some distribution centres and have worked with merchants to ensure the supply chain is constantly provided the merchandise consumers are expecting. It is a model that allows for greater flexibility and speed. 

HBC continues to grow. With the purchase of Germany’s Galeria Kaufhof last year, it gives HBC the supply chain necessary to obtain a major foothold in European markets for future expansion. it was announced in May of 2016 that 20 new Bay and Saks Off Fifth stores will open in the Netherlands. It will be the first time The Bay brand name stores will be open outside Canada. The first one will open in 2017.

Lessons for Others

Companies must be good corporate citizens by listening to consumers and social advocates through all kinds of social media and adopting new company policy to address these economic, social and environmental requirements. 

Finally, companies must work with suppliers and partner with third parties to create supply chain efficiencies, to improve quality and speed up deliveries within their networks. HBC has and continues to this. 

In order to survive, companies must change, expand, adapt to trends and consumer demands and economic downturns. HBC has managed to do this for over 300 years!

Organization: HBC
Industry: Retail Store
Name of Organization Contact: Tiffany Bourré, Director, External Communications

Authored by: Russ Horner

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Government of Canada. Hudson Bay Watershed. Retrieved June 20, 2016 from https://www.ec.gc.ca/eaudouce-freshwater/default.asp?lang=En&n=E94A4CCD-1

British Broadcasting Corporation. History. Retrieved June 20, 2016 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/rupert_prince.shtml

Biography.com editors. Retrieved June 20, 2016 from http://www.biography.com/people/charles-ii-of-england-39462 

HBC. Retrieved June 20, 2016 from https://www2.hbc.com/hbc/history/, http://www.hbcheritage.ca/hbcheritage/history/transportation/canoe/home, http://www3.hbc.com/hbc/socialresponsibility/, http://www3.hbc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Supplier-Code-of-Conduct-2015.pdf 

Government of Canada. Global Affairs Canada. Retrieved June 20, 2016 from http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/other-autre/csr-rse.aspx?lang=eng 

Glob Newswire, New York, Sept. 1, 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2016 from https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2015/09/02/765358/10147978/en/Xcel-Brands-Announces-Strategic-Partnership-With-Hudson-s-Bay-and-Lord-Taylor.html 

Flavelle, D. (July 26, 2012) Zellers to close last 64 stores as Target moves into Canada. Retrieved on June 20, 2016 from https://www.thestar.com/business/2012/07/26/zellers_to_close_last_64_stores_as_target_moves_into_canada.html 

Jervell, E.E. (June 15, 2015) Hudson’s Bay to Buy German Department Store Chain Galeria Kaufhof from Metro. Retrieved on June 20, 2016 from http://www.wsj.com/articles/metro-sells-galeria-kaufhof-for-3-17-billion-1434346794 

CBC on Yahoo.(May 17, 2016) HBC to expand to the Netherlands and open 20 Bay and Saks stores by 2017. Retrieved on June 20, 2016 from http://cbc-ca-yahoopartner.tumblr.com/post/144502484141/hbc-to-expand-to-the-netherlands-and-open-20-bay

Canada’s History, (October 1, 2014). Retrieved from YouTube on June 20, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv79RuljnxY