GIBSON'S DISCOUNT CENTERS

This discount mart operation, now nothing more than a faded memory, was once promoted as the largest in the United States...this before the ascension of Kmart, Wal-Mart and Target.

The Gibson's Discount Center chain of stores had its beginnings in Abilene, Texas. A mercantile known as Gibson Products Company was established in 1937, by Herbert K. Gibson and his wife Belva. The official name of the store had morphed into the Factory Distributing Company by 1957.

At the time, Texas statutes forbade selling merchandise at wholesale prices without the purchaser having a vendor's card. This law was relaxed in 1958, and the Abilene store became the first "Gibson's Discount Center".

A corporate headquarters was established in Seagoville, Texas and expansion of the chain advanced at a rapid pace. By late 1967, there were three hundred locations; some company owned, others franchised. The standard Gibson's store ranged in size between 18,000 and 48,000 square feet. Five hundred and fifteen stores were under the corporate umbrella by 1971.

At this juncture, the fortunes of the company began to turn sour. In July 1971, two franchisees, Texarkana-based Howard Gibco Corporation and Monroe, Lousiana's Howard Brothers Discount Stores, filed a lawsuit against the Gibson's Discount Centers parent company for unfair trade practices. Gibson's immediately filed a counter suit.

The former franchisees prevailed. Moreover, the ever-expanding discount chain out of Bentonville, Arkansas was putting the hurt on the Gibson's enterprise in a big way. Lastly, legal action was brought against Gibson's by the Federal Trade Commission.

By the early 1980s, the glory days of the Gibson's enterprise were long passed. Most corporate-owned Gibson's stores were forced out of business, with some of the franchised operations being acquired by their operators. In the final days of the chain, thirty locations were being operated from a corporate headquarters in Dodge City, Kansas.