Friday, February 22, 2013
Frank W. Woolworth opened his first “five cent” store in Utica, NY, on February 22, 1879. As a sales assistant in a dry goods store in nearby Watertown, he persuaded the co-owner to lend him $300 to open his own store. His inspiration was a table with items selling for just five cents that always sold out. The store failed within three weeks, but he opened stores in Pennsylvania (adding 10-cent items). During the next 30 years, Woolworth coaxed friends and family to enter the business, and in 1911, 586 stores merged to form the F.W. Woolworth Company. Woolworth became immensely wealthy by pioneering several retail practices, including: buying merchandise directly from manufacturers, attaching fixed prices to items instead of bargaining, and using self-service display cases for customers to examine goods (eliminating the need for salespeople). The chain in the United States (now Foot Locker) folded in July 1997.