Each store offered a wide selection of merchandise with special emphasis placed of fashion apparel, accessories and fashion home furnishings. This was aimed at middle and upper-middle income consumers. In addition to its department store operations the company maintained a partnership position in five operating shopping center ventures. Each of these centers had a retail outlet of the company.
The store chain was formed in 1914 out of the bankruptcy of H.B. Claflin & Company. Its stores were separated into two store chains, Associated Dry Goods - with brands such as Lord & Taylor and Hengerer's - and Mercantile Stores Company. In May 1998 Mercantile Stores was acquired by Dillard's of Little Rock, Arkansas, for $2.9 billion. Later that year, Dillard's announced plans to sell off 26 of the newly acquired locations where there already were Dillard's stores. Vice President James McVicker was there at closing of Mercantile. See WLWT's interview.