In the 1920s, Butler Brothers moved into retailing with a chain of "Scott" and "L. C. Burr" stores. In the early 1930s, they developed the Ben Franklin Stores and Federated Stores, both of which were franchised five and dime stores. Most were in small towns. By 1936 there were 2,600 Ben Franklin stores and 1,400 Federated stores.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Butler Brothers was one of the largest wholesalers in the country. Unlike many modern franchises, which seek to present a uniform identity to consumers, the Ben Franklin franchise largely benefitted dime store owners by making weekly shipments from their warehouses, where tens of thousands of items were kept in inventory. Not only could a store owner order merchandise on Friday and receive it on Tuesday to replenish empty shelves, but by consolidating shipments, saved a considerable amount on freight, and found it easier to manage his inventory.
Butler Brothers also organized special sale events every few weeks. Stores could order salebills with their own names on them, and in many cases, with sale prices they chose for the merchandise. Manufacturers would offer special prices to get the extra sales inherent by being included in such large promotions, which Butler Brothers would pass along,
In February 1960 the company was bought out by City Products Corp of Ohio, a company which had been in existence since 1894 as an ice company, for $53 million plus assumption of Butler Brothers liabilities.
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- Ben Franklin Stores
- Butler Brothers Company (building), now known as Butler Square, in Minneapolis, Minnesota's warehouse district
- "Butler Brothers". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved 2011-11-18. "George and Edward Butler founded a wholesale mail-order company in Boston in 1877. Butler Bros. opened a Chicago warehouse in 1879, and the city became home to the company's catalog department. ..."
- "City Products Corporation". Harvard University. Retrieved 2011-11-18. "City Products Corporation purchased from Butler Brothers all its business, assets, and property. ..."
- Ronald D. Michman, and Alan J. Greco; Retailing Triumphs and Blunders: Victims of Competition in the New Age of Marketing Management ISBN 0-89930-869-4
- Sandra S. Vance and Roy V. Scott; Butler Brothers and the Rise and Decline of the Ben Franklin Stores: A Study in Franchise Retailing (1993)
- City Products