The F. W. Woolworth Company (often referred to as Woolworth's, or Woolworth) was a retail company that was one of the original pioneers, and arguably the most successful American and international five-and-dime stores, setting trends and creating the modern retail model which 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. Searching for a new location, a friend suggested Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Using the same sign from the Utica store, Frank opened his first successful "Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store" on July 18, 1879, in Lancaster. Frank brought his brother, Charles Sumner Woolworth, who went by the nickname "Sum", into the business.
The two Woolworth brothers pioneered and developed merchandising, direct purchasing, sales and customer service practices commonly used today. 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. (NYSE: FL)
Retail chains using the Woolworth name survive in Germany, Austria, Mexico, South Africa and, until the start of 2009, in 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.