We all remember these department stores… Ever wonder what happened to them?
Woolco was an American-based discount retail chain. It was founded in 1962 in the city of Columbus, Ohio by the F.W. Woolworth Company. It was a full-line discount department store unlike the five-and-dime Woolworth stores which operated at the time. At its peak, Woolco had hundreds of stores in the US, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. While the American stores were closed in 1982, the chain remained active in Canada until it was sold in 1994 to rival Wal-Mart. Most of the former UK Woolco stores were renamed Woolworth.
Sebastian S. Kresge, the founder of the company that would become Kmart, met variety store pioneer Frank Woolworth while working as a traveling salesman and selling to all nineteen of Woolworth’s stores at the time. In 1897 Kresge invested in two five and dime stores with his friend John McCrory; they were the first S.S. Kresge stores. By 1907 Kresge had bought out McCrory. He continued in this for two years, then in 1899 founded his company with Charles J. Wilson with an $8,000 investment in two five-and-ten-cent stores, one in downtown Detroit, Michigan (for which he traded ownership in McCrory’s).
In 1906 the first “W. T. Grant Co. 25 Cent Store” opened in Lynn, Massachusetts. Modest profit, coupled with a fast turnover of inventory, caused the stores to grow to almost $100 million a year in sales by 1936, the same year that William Thomas Grant started the W. T. Grant Foundation. By the time Mr. Grant died in 1972, at age 96, his nationwide empire of W. T. Grant Stores had grown to almost 1,200.
J.J. Newberry’s was an American five and dime store chain in the twentieth century. It was founded in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1911 by John Josiah Newberry (September 26, 1877 – March 6, 1954). J.J. Newberry had learned the variety store business by working at S.H. Kress stores for 12 years between 1899 and 1911, after having worked for department store Fowler, Dick, and Walker for five years. There were 7 stores in the chain by 1918.
The F. W. Woolworth Company (often referred to as Woolworth’s or Woolworth, or even Woolsworth) was a retail company that was one of the original American five-and-dime stores. The first Woolworth store was founded in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with a loan of $300, in 1879 by Frank Winfield Woolworth. Despite 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. The chain went out of business in July 1997, when the company decided to focus on the Foot Locker division 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.
Until next time…