This Day in Business History: America’s First Five and Dime Store Opens

February 22, 1878: The first F.W. Woolworth store was opened by Frank Winfield Woolworth on February 22, 1878 in Utica, NY. Marketed as “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” it had a less than stellar beginning and the store soon closed. Frank brought his brother, Charles Sumner Woolworth, into the business and the next store, located in Lancaster, PA, proved more successful.  As the popularity of the 5-cent merchandise grew, the brothers added 10-cent items. In 1905 the F.W. Woolworth & Company was formally incorporated. Its New York corporate headquarters was built in 1913; standing 792 feet tall; it was the tallest building in the world until 1929. Today it remains one of the 50 tallest buildings in the U.S.

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.

Source: Business Reference Sources, Library of Congress