In 1931, Montgomery Ward was the nation’s number-two retailer after Sears, Roebuck and Company. But Ward had made some near-fatal mistakes. Over the past 10 years, the middle class had been growing. Cities were expanding. There was a growing market for mass-produced goods. Sears opened up retail stores to meet the demand in these growing cities. Ward focused on mail-order catalogs to rural markets instead. And now the company was facing bankruptcy.
Financier J. P. Morgan installed Sewell Avery as the CEO of Montgomery Ward to turn the company around. Avery called Ed Booz. The retailer rapidly became his highest-profile client. He helped design a first wave of reorganization and cost cutting that reversed Ward’s decline. By 1934 it was making money, and by 1936 profits reached $13.5 million annually.