F. W. Woolworth Company

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F. W. Woolworth Company
Woolworth's or Woolworth & Co
Publicly traded
Traded as Publicly traded, NYSE:  Z, 1912–1997
FateDepartment stores closed. Name changed in 1997 to Venator Group, and in 2001 to Foot Locker [1]
Successor Foot Locker
FoundedFebruary 22, 1878 (1878-02-22)
Utica, New York, United States
Founder Frank Winfield Woolworth (President)
DefunctJuly 1997 (1997-07) (said division only)
Headquarters Woolworth Building, New York City, New York, United States
Key people
F.W. Woolworth (Founder/CEO)
Charles Woolworth (Chairman)
ProductsClothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, consumer electronics and housewares
Owner Independent
Parent Woolworth Corporation, LLC.
Subsidiaries Woolworths Group
F. W. Woolworth Ireland
Woolworth Canada
Woolworth GmbH
Woolworth Mexicana
Kinney Shoe Company
Woolworth Athletic Group
Richman Brothers
Website www.footlocker-inc.com/   Blue pencil.svg

The F. W. Woolworth Company (often referred to as Woolworth's or Woolworth) was a retail company and one of the original pioneers of the five-and-dime store. It was arguably the most successful American and international five-and-dime business, setting trends and creating the modern retail model that stores follow worldwide today.


The first Woolworth store was opened by Frank Winfield Woolworth on February 22, 1878, as "Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store" in Utica, New York. Though it initially appeared to be successful, the store soon failed. When Woolworth searched for a new location, a friend suggested Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Using the sign from the Utica store, Woolworth opened his first successful "Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store" on July 18, 1879, in Lancaster. He brought his brother, Charles Sumner Woolworth, into the business.

Frank Winfield Woolworth American businessman

Frank Winfield Woolworth was an American entrepreneur and the founder of F. W. Woolworth Company and the operator of variety stores known as "Five-and-Dimes" or dimestores, which featured a low-priced selection of merchandise. He pioneered the now-common practices of buying merchandise directly from manufacturers and fixing the selling prices on items, rather than haggling. He was also the first to use self-service display cases, so customers could examine what they wanted to buy without the help of a sales clerk.

Utica, New York City in New York ----, United States

Utica is a city in the Mohawk Valley and the county seat of Oneida County, New York, United States. The tenth-most-populous city in New York, its population was 62,235 in the 2010 U.S. census. Located on the Mohawk River at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, Utica is approximately 95 miles northwest of Albany, 55 mi (89 km) east of Syracuse and 240 miles northwest of New York City. Utica and the nearby city of Rome anchor the Utica–Rome Metropolitan Statistical Area, which comprises all of Oneida and Herkimer counties.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania City in Pennsylvania, United States

Lancaster is a city located in South Central Pennsylvania which serves as the seat of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County and one of the oldest inland towns in the United States. With a population of 59,322, it ranks eighth in population among Pennsylvania's cities. The Lancaster metropolitan area population is 507,766, making it the 101st largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and second largest in the South Central Pennsylvania area.

The two Woolworth brothers pioneered and developed merchandising, direct purchasing, sales, and customer service practices commonly used today. Despite its growing to be one of the largest retail chains in the world through most of the 20th century, increased competition led to its decline beginning in the 1980s, while its sporting goods division grew. The chain went out of business in July 1997, when the company decided to focus primarily on sporting goods and renamed itself Venator Group. By 2001, the company focused exclusively on the sporting goods market, changing its name to the present Foot Locker, Inc., changing its ticker symbol from its familiar Z in 2003 to its present ticker (NYSE :  FL).

In the broadest sense, merchandising is any practice which contributes to the sale of products to a retail consumer. At a retail in-store level, merchandising refers to the variety of products available for sale and the display of those products in such a way that it stimulates interest and entices customers to make a purchase.

Foot Locker company

Foot Locker Retail, Inc. is an American sportswear and footwear retailer, with its headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, and operating in 28 countries worldwide.

New York Stock Exchange American stock exchange

The New York Stock Exchange is an American stock exchange located at 11 Wall Street, Lower Manhattan, New York City, New York. It is by far the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies at US$30.1 trillion as of February 2018. The average daily trading value was approximately US$169 billion in 2013. The NYSE trading floor is located at 11 Wall Street and is composed of 21 rooms used for the facilitation of trading. A fifth trading room, located at 30 Broad Street, was closed in February 2007. The main building and the 11 Wall Street building were designated National Historic Landmarks in 1978.

Retail chains using the Woolworth name survive in Austria, Germany, Mexico and, until early 2009, the United Kingdom. The similarly named Woolworths supermarkets in Australia and New Zealand are operated by Australia's largest retail company, Woolworths Limited, a separate company with no historical links to the F. W. Woolworth Company or Foot Locker, Inc. However, Woolworths Limited did take their name from the original company, as it had not been registered or trademarked in Australia at the time. [2] Similarly, in South Africa, Woolworths Holdings Limited operates a Marks & Spencer-like store and uses the Woolworth name, but has never had any connection with the American company. The property development company Woolworth Group in Cyprus began life as an offshoot of the British Woolworth's company, originally operating Woolworth's department stores in Cyprus. In 2003, these stores were rebranded Debenhams, but the commercial property arm of the business retained the Woolworth's name.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.


Door handle of a mid-20th century Woolworth's store WoolworthsSelfService.jpg
Door handle of a mid-20th century Woolworth's store


The F.W. Woolworth Co. had the first five-and-dime stores, which sold discounted general merchandise at fixed prices, usually five or ten cents, undercutting the prices of other local merchants. Woolworth, as the stores popularly became known, was one of the first American retailers to put merchandise out for the shopping public to handle and select without the assistance of a sales clerk. Earlier retailers had kept all merchandise behind a counter and customers presented the clerk with a list of items they wished to buy. [3]

Discounts and allowances reductions in the basic prices of goods or services

Discounts and allowances are reductions to a basic price of goods or services.

The term fixed price is a phrase used to mean the price of a good or a service is not subject to bargaining. The term commonly indicates that an external agent, such as a merchant or the government, has set a price level, which may not be changed for individual sales. In the case of governments, this may be due to price controls.

An Edgeworth price cycle is cyclical pattern in prices characterized by an initial jump, which is then followed by a slower decline back towards the initial level. The term was introduced by Maskin and Tirole (1988) in a theoretical setting featuring two firms bidding sequentially and where the winner captures the full market.

After working in Augsbury and Moore dry goods store in Watertown, New York, Frank Winfield Woolworth obtained credit from his former boss, William Moore, along with some savings, to buy merchandise and open the "Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store" in Utica, New York, on February 22, 1878. The store failed and closed in May 1878, after Frank earned enough money to pay back William Moore. Frank soon made a second attempt, and opened his "Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store", using the same sign, on June 21, 1879, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Lancaster proved a success, and Frank never forgot the city for the rest of his life. Frank wanted to open a second store in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and so he asked his brother Charles Sumner "Sum" Woolworth to join him by managing it. The Harrisburg store opened as, "5¢ Woolworth Bro's Store" on July 19, 1879. After a falling-out with the landlord, that store moved to York, Pennsylvania, opening in March 1880. That store did not last long either, closing three months later. Frank searched for a larger, low-rent building. He found an ideal location in Scranton, Pennsylvania, at 125 Penn Avenue, and opened their "5¢ & 10¢ Woolworth Bro's Store" on November 6, 1880, with Sum as manager. The Scranton store is where Sum fully developed the brothers' "5¢ & 10¢" merchandising model. Sum spent a lot of time working the sales floor, talking with customers and employees. He often personally served customers. Sales grew steadily. By 1881, at Frank's suggestion, Sum bought out his brother's share of the Scranton store in two installments, in January 1881 and 1882. This made Sum the first Woolworth Bro's franchisee. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Dry goods term referring to supplies and manufactured goods

Dry goods is a historic term describing the type of product line a store carries, which differs by region. The term comes from the textile trade, and the shops appear to have spread with the mercantile trade across the British colonial territories as a means of bringing supplies and manufactured goods out to the far-flung settlements and homesteads that were spreading around the globe. Starting in the mid-1700s, these stores began by selling supplies and textiles goods to remote communities, and many customized the products they carried to the area's needs. This continued to be the trend well into the early 1900s; but with the rise of the department stores and catalog sales, the decline of the dry goods stores began.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Capital of Pennsylvania

Harrisburg is the capital city of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States, and the county seat of Dauphin County. With a population of 49,192, it is the 15th largest city in the Commonwealth. It lies on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, 107 miles (172 km) west of Philadelphia. Harrisburg is the anchor of the Susquehanna Valley metropolitan area, which had a 2017 estimated population of 571,903, making it the fourth most populous in Pennsylvania and 96th most populous in the United States.

York, Pennsylvania City in Pennsylvania, United States

York, known as the White Rose City, is the county seat of York County, Pennsylvania, United States, located in the south-central region of the state. The population within York's city limits was 43,718 at the 2010 census, a 7.0% increase from the 2000 count of 40,862. When combined with the adjacent boroughs of West York and North York and surrounding Spring Garden, West Manchester, and Springettsbury townships, the population of Greater York was 108,386. York is the 11th largest city in Pennsylvania.

In 1884, confident enough to open another store, Sum partnered with his longtime friend Fred Morgan Kirby to open a store in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, a neighboring town to the west of Scranton. Fred had been working as the head of wholesale operations at Augsbury and Moore of Watertown, New York. Each man put up $600 to launch the Wilkes-Barre store called "Woolworth and Kirby". Fred managed the new store and, while sales were initially poor, the store soon caught on. By 1887 he used his profits to buy out Sum and expand the store under his name; Sum and Fred remained the best of friends. During this time, Frank was expanding with more stores. Sum's approach was different; he worked to perfect the look and feel of his Scranton store. It had mahogany counters with glass dividers and glass-fronted showcases. The store was brightly lit, new, and the wooden floor was polished to a lustrous shine. The layout was soon adopted by Frank for his F. W. Woolworth stores and became the standard as the two brothers persuaded family members and former co-workers from Moore's to join them in forming a "friendly rival syndicate" of five-and-ten-cent stores. Each of the syndicate chain's stores looked similar inside and out, but operated under its founder's name. Frank Woolworth provided much of the merchandise, encouraging the rivals to club together to maximize their inventory and purchasing power.

At the same time, using his preference to have someone he could trust, Frank brought in their cousin, Seymour H. Knox I, to open a store in Reading, Pennsylvania, under the name "Woolworth and Knox". Seymour had been managing a general store in Michigan. [8]

Rise and expansion

The Woolworth Building, New York City, c. 1913 View of Woolworth Building fixed.jpg
The Woolworth Building, New York City, c. 1913

By 1904, there were six chains of affiliated stores operating in the United States and Canada. Between 1905 and 1908, members of the Woolworth Syndicate followed Frank's lead to incorporate their businesses; Sum maintained that he did not need to incorporate his stores. In 1912 the syndicate agreed to a scheme crafted by Frank Woolworth: to join forces and incorporate as one corporate entity under the name "F. W. Woolworth Company" in a merger of all 596 stores. The stock flotation raised over $30 million for the five founders of the merged chains. They all swallowed their pride and accepted Frank's name above the door, with Frank as President of the new Corporation. Sum Woolworth, Fred Kirby, Seymour Knox, Earle Charlton, and William Moore each became a Director and Vice-President. One of the "friendly rival" predecessor chains included several stores initially opened as Woolworth & Knox stores starting as early as September 20, 1884 as well as S. H. Knox & Co. 5 & 10 Cent Stores opened after an 1889 buyout by his cousin, Seymour H. Knox I. Knox's chain grew to 98 U.S. and 13 Canadian stores by the time of the corporate consolidation. Fred M. Kirby added 96 stores, Earle Charlton added 35, Charles Sumner Woolworth added 15, and William Moore added two.

Sum Woolworth continued to maintain his home base in Scranton, PA. He was not the type to get embroiled in the politics, as executives of the different chains sought to establish themselves in the merger. As he did from the beginning, Sum concentrated on improving stores, particularly in his native Pennsylvania, and training up-and-coming managers. Those managers eventually dispersed across the entire company, setting the style and tone of Woolworth stores worldwide.

In 1900, Frank launched his first development plan in the city of his first success, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Rather than just enlarging his store on North Queen Street, he bought up properties along the street in an area which was not considered a "good" side of town. By keeping his plans quiet, Frank saw to it that real estate prices would not be inflated in that area. When he finished the real estate purchases, he announced his plan to build a building with five floors of offices above a large store. The roof had a garden and an open-air theater. The theater was a huge hit in town, and soon became the city's social center. This project was something of a dress rehearsal for his next venture.

Tea cup ballet, a 1935 photograph by Olive Cotton with some inexpensive cups and saucers from Woolworths Olive Cotton - Tea cup ballet, 1935.jpg
Tea cup ballet, a 1935 photograph by Olive Cotton with some inexpensive cups and saucers from Woolworths
Second successful "Woolworth Bros" store, Scranton, PA. Later bought by brother Charles "Sum", becoming the first "C. S. Woolworth" store, and eventually merged into the F. W. Woolworth Company. Scranton Store - Woolworth 2nd-larger.jpg
Second successful "Woolworth Bros" store, Scranton, PA. Later bought by brother Charles "Sum", becoming the first "C. S. Woolworth" store, and eventually merged into the F. W. Woolworth Company.

In 1910, Frank Woolworth commissioned the design and construction of the Woolworth Building in New York City. A pioneering early skyscraper, it was designed by American architect Cass Gilbert, a graduate of the MIT architecture school. [9] The building was paid for entirely in cash. It was completed in 1913 and was the tallest building in the world until 1930. It also served as the company’s headquarters until it was sold by the F.W. Woolworth Company’s successor, the Venator Group (now Foot Locker), in 1998.

FW Woolworth store in Providence, RI, c. 1930-1945 FW Woolworth store Providence RI.jpg
FW Woolworth store in Providence, RI, c. 1930–1945

Frank Woolworth, president of F. W. Woolworth, Corporation, died in 1919, in Glen Cove, New York. Sum's demeanor made him the perfect candidate to head the F. W. Woolworth Corporation after the death of his brother. He was non-confrontational, as everyone else positioned themselves in the company. The Board of Directors unanimously asked Sum to take on the Presidency. With his infamous modesty he declined. He did, however, agree to take the new role of Chairman. Company Treasurer, Hubert Parson, took the Presidency. Over the following twenty-five years, Sum saw four Presidents come and go. He gave each one quiet-spoken advice and good counsel. As Chairman, he facilitated debate and ensured issues were properly confronted and argued out by the Board.

For many years the company did a strictly "five-and-ten cent" business, but in the spring of 1932 a 20-cent line of merchandise was added. On November 13, 1935 the company's directors decided to discontinue selling-price limits altogether. [10]

The stores eventually incorporated lunch counters after the success of the counters in the first store in the UK in Liverpool that served as general gathering places, a precursor to the modern shopping mall food court. A Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina became the setting for the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement.

The Woolworth's concept was widely copied, and five-and-ten-cent stores (also known as five-and-dime stores or dimestores) became a 20th-century fixture in American downtowns. They would serve as anchors for suburban shopping plazas and shopping malls in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Criticisms that five-and-dime stores drove local merchants out of business would repeat themselves in the early 21st century, when big-box discount stores became popular. However, many five-and-dime stores were locally owned or franchised, as are many dollar stores today.


In the 1960s, the five-and-dime concept evolved into the larger discount department store format. In 1962, Woolworth's founded a chain of large, single-floor discount stores called Woolco. Some of these stores were branded as Winfields, after the founder's middle name.

1962 was the same year that Woolworth's competitors opened similar retail chains that sold merchandise at a discount: the S.S. Kresge Company opened Kmart, Dayton's opened Target, and Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart store.

The following year, in 1963, Woolworth expanded into the shoe store business with the purchase of Kinney Shoe Corporation, which eventually created the store that Woolworth would be taken over by, Foot Locker.

By Woolworth’s 100th anniversary in 1979, it had become the largest department store chain in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

During the 1980s, the company began expansion into many different specialty store formats, including Afterthoughts (which sold jewelry and other accessories for women) [11] , Northern Reflections (which sold cold-weather outerwear) [11] , Rx Place (later sold to Phar-Mor), and Champs Sports. By 1989, the company was pursuing an aggressive strategy of multiple specialty store formats targeted at enclosed shopping malls. The idea was that if a particular concept failed at a given mall, the company could quickly replace it with a different concept. The company aimed for 10 stores in each of the country's major shopping malls, but this never came to pass as Woolworth never developed that many successful specialty store formats. Also attempted was a revision of the classic Woolworth store model into Woolworth Express, a small, mall-oriented variant which was dubbed "a specialty variety store'', stocked with everyday convenience items such as health and beauty aids, greeting cards, snack foods, cleaning supplies and school supplies (somewhat like the non-pharmacy, mall-based locations of CVS/pharmacy and other drug store chains). [12]


The Woolworth's store in downtown Seattle in the 1980s Downtown Seattle Woolworth's in 1986.jpg
The Woolworth's store in downtown Seattle in the 1980s

The growth and expansion of the company contributed to its downfall. The Woolworth company moved away from its five-and-dime roots and placed less emphasis on its department store chain as it focused on its specialty stores. Still, the company was unable to compete with other chains that had eroded its market share. While it was a success in Canada, the Woolco chain closed in the United States in 1983. Europe's largest F. W. Woolworth store, in Manchester, England, one of two in the city center, experienced a fire in May 1979. Despite the store being rebuilt even larger and up to the latest fire codes; the negative stories in the press, coupled with the loss of lives, sealed its fate; it finally closed in 1986. During the rebuild and partly as a result of the bad press, the British operation was isolated from the parent company as Woolworths plc. This proved fortuitous as the brand subsequently lasted a full twelve years longer in the United Kingdom than it did in the United States. On October 15, 1993, Woolworth's embarked on a restructuring plan that included closing half of its 800-plus general merchandise stores in the United States and converting its Canadian stores to a closeout division named The Bargain! Shop. Woolco and Woolworth survived in Canada until 1994, when the majority of the Woolco stores there were sold to Wal-Mart. The Woolco stores that were not purchased by Wal-Mart were either converted to The Bargain! Shop, sold to Zellers or shut down. Approximately 100 Woolworth stores in Canada were rebranded as The Bargain! Shop, and the rest were closed.


Amid the decline of the signature stores, Woolworth began focusing on the sale of athletic goods. On January 30, 1997, the company acquired the mail order catalog athletic retailer Eastbay.

On March 17, 1997, Wal-Mart replaced Woolworth's as a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. [13] Analysts at the time cited the lower prices of the large discount stores and the expansion of supermarket grocery stores – which had begun to stock merchandise also sold by five-and-dime stores – as contributors to Woolworth's decline in the late 20th century. On July 17, 1997, Woolworth's closed its remaining department stores in the U.S. and changed its corporate name to Venator.

In 1999, Venator moved out of the Woolworth Building in New York City to offices on 34th Street. On October 20, 2001, the company changed names again; this time, it took the name of its top retail performer and became Foot Locker, Inc., which Woolworth started in 1974. All corporate history of Woolworth is included in the history of Foot Locker, Inc., resulting in the company in 2012 observing the F. W. Woolworth Company's centennial of joining the New York Stock Exchange. The 2012 annual report cover used a 1912 Woolworths store and a 2012 Foot Locker store to celebrate the said event.


In 2015, a group of retro activists, including Victor Corporation of America, launched an online retailer using the F.W. Woolworth name in an effort of making a retail comeback. [14] The online retailer features brands including Victor Talking Machine Co., Parisi Studios, Bite Size, Author Court, and Case Escape. It carries products including clothing, electronics, gifts, vegan products, lifestyle, home, and furniture. [15] According to Victor Corporation of America's LinkedIn page, they are currently the parent company of F. W. Woolworth Co. [16] It now has its U.S. online site at www.woolworthsusa.com.

Woolworth Logo.svg
Last pre-1997 (year of name change) logo
Logo used during 1960s and 70s

Greensboro sit-in

On February 1, 1960, four black students sat down at a segregated lunch counter in a Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth's store. They were refused service, touching off six months of sit-ins and economic boycotts that became a landmark event in the civil rights movement. In 1993, an eight-foot section of the lunch counter was moved to the Smithsonian Institution and the store site now contains a civil rights museum, which had its grand opening on Monday, February 1, 2010, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the sit-ins. [28]

Imitation sit-ins also occurred in other cities where there were segregated lunch counters at Woolworth's. In Roanoke, Virginia on August 27, 1960, two women and a boy "...sat at the lunch counter and ordered a slice of pie, a soda and a sundae, all under the watchful eyes of the biracial committee which had organized the event." The names of the three blacks were not reported at the time, and are now unknown. While the incident was uneventful, other sit-ins were completed, also without incident, at 17 other segregated lunch counters in Roanoke. [29]


  • Frank Winfield Woolworth (1852–1919) from founding to 1919
  • Hubert Templeton Parson 1919 to 1932 [30] [31]
  • Byron D. Miller 1932 to 1935 [32]
  • Charles Deyo 1935 to 1946
  • Alfred Cornwell 1946 to 1954
  • James T. Leftwich 1954 to 1958
  • Robert C. Kirkwood 1958 to 1965
  • Lester A. Burcham 1965 to 1970
  • John S. Roberts 1970 to 1975
  • Edward F. Gibbons 1975 to 1978
  • W. Robert Harris 1978 to ?
  • Robert L. Jennings 1984 to 1987 [33] per reference he was president of flagship division but not of corporation
  • Frederick E. Hennig 1987 to 1995 [34]
  • Roger N. Farah 1994 to 2000. Oversaw company's name change to Venator in 1997.
  • Matthew D. Serra 2001 to 2009. Oversaw company's name change to Foot Locker in 2001.
  • Kenneth C. Hicks, 2009 to 2014.
  • Richard A. Johnson, 2014–present.

In later years the chairman rather than the president was frequently the chief executive officer. Gibbons(1919-1982) succeeded Burcham(1913-1987) as chairman-CEO in 1978 and died in office, succeeded by vice chairman John W. Lynn(1921-2013) who was succeeded in 1986 by president(since 1983, replacing Richard L. Anderson(d. 2015)) Harold Sells. Farah joined the company as chairman and CEO in December 1994 and Hennig was replaced by Dale W. Hilpert as president in May 1995.

Non-American retail users of the Woolworth name

A Christmas toy display at a Woolworth store in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1941 Display. Christmas Display at Woolworth's BAnQ P48S1P06790.jpg
A Christmas toy display at a Woolworth store in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1941
A Woolworths store in the UK Woolworths Camberwell - 2004 - Exterior.jpg
A Woolworths store in the UK

Former F.W. Woolworth subsidiaries

Currently in business


  • Woolworth Canada was the Canadian unit of F.W. Woolworth founded in the 1920s and based in North York, Ontario. [37] In addition to the Woolworth stores, other banners of Woolworth Canada included Woolco, The Bargain! Shop, Kinney, Foot Locker, Northern Reflections, Northern Getaway, Northern Traditions, Silk & Satin and Randy River. [38] The division continued to be called Woolworth Canada even after the last stores under the Woolworth nameplate disappeared from Canada in 1994. Woolworth Canada was eventually renamed Venator Group Canada in 1998 and finally Foot Locker Canada in 2001. [39]
  • Woolworths Group plc originally was the British unit of F.W. Woolworth's, but operated independently as a separate company from 1982, running stores in the UK, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. On November 26, 2008 Woolworth's Group plc announced that they were in too much debt to maintain their outgoing payments. The remaining British Woolworth's stores closed by January 6, 2009, with the loss of almost 30,000 jobs. [40]



See also

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The G.R. Kinney Company was an American manufacturer and retailer of shoes from 1894 until September 16, 1998. Its listing on the New York Stock Exchange, symbol KNN, began in March 1923. The shoe concern was started by George Romanta Kinney whose father ran a general store in rural Candor, New York. The father became indebted and George vowed to repay his indebtedness. In 1894, at the age of 28, he had saved enough to purchase a Lester retail outlet in Waverly, New York. Kinney succeeded by selling affordably priced shoes to working Americans.

F. W. Woolworth Building (Watertown, New York)

The Woolworth Building is an historic building in Watertown, New York. It is a contributing building in the Public Square Historic District. Plans for the Woolworth Building were begun in 1916 by Frank W. Woolworth, the founder of the Woolworth's chain of department stores.

Charles Sumner Woolworth businessperson

Charles Sumner Woolworth, was an American entrepreneur who went by the nickname of "Sum", opened and managed the world's first five-and-dime store in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and was founder of the "C. S. Woolworth & Co" chain of 5¢ & 10¢ stores. Sum's brother, Frank Winfield Woolworth was first to venture into the retail business with his own store, and soon after, he asked Sum to join him. Frank founded "F. W. Woolworth & Co", which later merged with other Woolworth affiliate stores to be the F. W. Woolworth Company. After the death of his brother, Sum became the longest serving Chairman of the F. W. Woolworth Company. During the early years, Sum also partnered with a long-time friend, Fred Kirby, to open a "Woolworth and Kirby" store in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. When Fred bought out Sum's share, that store grew to become a "friendly rival" affiliate store, in close alliance with the two Woolworth brothers.

Big W (United Kingdom)

Big W was a large format chain of megastores owned by the Kingfisher Group. This chain consisting of Kingfisher's British retail chains, which were Comet, B&Q, Superdrug and Woolworths in one large megastore. Even though Woolworths scrapped the brand name in 2004, they continued to operate 14 of the stores and all of them but one remained until the administration in 2008. Despite sharing the name with the Australian chain Big W, they are not related, being owned by two different companies. Big W's tagline was A lot for not a lot.

E. P. Charlton & Company

E. P. Charlton & Company, also known as E. P. Charlton Company, E. P. Charlton, or simply Charlton's was an American chain of five and ten cent stores owned by Earle Perry Charlton, which merged with several associated brands to create the F. W. Woolworth Company in 1912.

Metropolitan Stores

Metropolitan Stores of Canada Ltd. was a former Canadian chain of variety stores based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Metropolitan Stores chain was founded in 1920 and also operated junior department and clothing stores under the SAAN, Greenberg and Red Apple banners. At its peak, Metropolitan was one of the four largest variety chain store organizations in Canada with 180 stores in all the provinces and territories. In French, the chain was known as le Met and Métropolitain.

Fred Morgan Kirby (1861-1940) from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was the co-founder and vice president of the F. W. Woolworth Company, creator of the concept of 5 and 10-cent stores, and a philanthropist. Kirby’s creation of 5 and 10-cent stores revolutionized consumer culture in Pennsylvania and across the United States.


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Further reading