The F.W. Woolworth Co. was among 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.
After working in a dry goods store in Watertown, NY, Frank Winfield Woolworth opened his first Woolworth’s store in Utica, New York, in 1878, but the store failed within a year.
However, a second store he opened on June 21, 1879 in Lancaster, PA became a success.
The stores eventually incorporated lunch counters after the success of the counters in the first store in the UK in Liverpool and served as general gathering places, a precursor to
the modern shopping mall food court. 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.
The chain went out of business in January 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.