The wholesale function in Winnipeg

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Short, Roger B.
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The emergence of Winnipeg as the sole gateway and wholesale centre for the prairie region, is an excellent example of the geography of the wholesale function. The natural and man-made advantages of Winnipeg's location provided its wholesalers with a span of thirty years during which they had no serious competitors for their control of the trade of the new region. From the eighteen-eighties until the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the city's merchants supplied the varied needs of the region and collected and marketed its products. Within Winnipeg the wholesale district became a principal part of the urban mosaic. However this monopolistic position was based on ephemeral foundations. The opening of new routes into the region, the growth of road transport as an alternative to the rail network (which focused on Winnipeg), the growing importance of trade with Asia and the rise of competing cities in the other western provinces - all of these factors weakened the position of Winnpeg's wholesalers and reduced their sphere of trade after the First World War. Added to these changes was the impact of new methods in marketing which threatened the wholesale function. The wholesalers in Winnipeg have sought new ways to improve their competitive position and this has been reflected in the city's wholesale district. In the years since 1945 there has been a movement of wholesalers away from the downtown district and out to spacious, single storey premises, in peripheral locations more suited to the needs of an era of truck transport. In spite of these changes wholesaling remains a major force in the city's urban geography.