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Milton Petrie was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of a Russian immigrant who ran several clothing shops.His father went bankrupt while Milton Petrie was young, and Milton worked various jobs until he saved enough money to open a small hosiery shop called Red Robin in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1927.You can't beat a market like that." Petrie also kept overhead low by leasing, rather than buying, space.He was known as a bare-knuckles real estate negotiator who would threaten when necessary to keep rent low.From the beginning, Petrie courted young women by providing budget-priced apparel.Under the names Petrie's, Marianne, and Stuarts, Petrie Stores worked by the same guidelines throughout their history. Advertising was considered unnecessary as the shops relied on their low prices and the closed environment of the shopping center to lure customers.As retail activity moved away from Main Street, Petrie sought out space in strip malls, opening shops in centers concentrated in the Midwest.With the dawn of the age of the shopping mall, Petrie moved aggressively to take full advantage of those controlled environments, where teenagers came to congregate.
His unswerving cost-consciousness led Petrie to accumulate much capital as he steadfastly refused to acquire long-term debt in the name of expansion.
By 1968, although Petrie's company had more than 150 stores and .8 million in sales, he had saved so much cash that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wondered whether these reserves had "accumulated beyond the reasonable needs of business." In 1960 Petrie used half of his million in capital to acquire a position as the largest outside stockholder of one of his major competitors, Lerner Stores.
Lerner had been pressuring his suppliers, so Petrie bought a stock position to try to force a merger.
If goods failed to sell, they were soon marked down to make room for something else.
Business was largely conducted via cash, and Petrie kept prices low to lure free-spending adolescents.
He began to expand, and in 1932, backed by a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and four silent partners, Petrie Stores Corporation was incorporated in New York.