The Birth of a Legend: Our Story
Filene's Basement was founded in Boston in 1909 by Edward A. Filene as a way to sell off excess merchandise from his father's department store upstairs. Before long, other retailers and manufacturers were bringing their unsold goods to him to sell, and the concept of the “off price” store was born.
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.
For Edward A. Filene, a retailer, the new system guaranteed the fast flow of goods. But for his customers, the Automatic Mark Down pricing guaranteed bargains. Many shopped at his bargain basement strictly out of the necessity to save money. Others, no matter what their means, were compelled by the game of chance—the gamble that an item would survive until the next mark down date arrived.
Anecdotes abound describing the lengths to which a Basement shopper will go to snag a bargain: tug-of-war contests over coveted items, women changing in the aisles (even after fitting rooms were installed), shoppers trying to hide an item under other merchandise, hoping it will still be there when it hits its next markdown date (by the way, that never works).
Today Filene’s Basement is a popular tourist attraction. Thousands of locals and visitors from all over the world pass through its doors each day.