The RETAIL MERCHANTS BOARD, INC., organized to promote sales and influence buying patterns, began in 1898 as a committee of the Chamber of Commerce and was formally organized in 1900. The board, made up of downtown merchants, met weekly to discuss the state of retail trade in Cleveland. A perennial concern was business hours, the issue in 1907 being whether or not to close 1 half-day a week and early on Saturday evening. Plagued with shoplifting and forgery in the early 1900s, the board suggested ways to minimize loss and encouraged the hiring of store detectives. In an effort to promote early buying and prevent a Christmas Eve rush of shoppers, the board members contributed to a joint advertising fund as early as 1907, and over the years decided when the official holiday advertising campaign would begin. Besides coordinating hours and sales practices, the merchants tried to keep pace with nationwide trends, setting up a joint delivery service in 1912 when national data convinced the board it was necessary. Among its most notable achievements was the creation of the Retail Men's Credit Organization, which operated the Credit Bureau of Cleveland.
When the Chamber of Commerce merged with the Greater Cleveland Growth Board to become the GREATER CLEVELAND GROWTH ASSN. in 1968, the Retail Merchants Board incorporated separately, moving into space leased by the Credit Bureau at 666 EUCLID AVE. By 1973 the purpose of the board was less clear, as the focus of retailing had moved away from downtown. In an attempt to get better promotion of the Cleveland area, the board ceded its promotional activities back to the Growth Assn.
See also BUSINESS, RETAIL.