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DIME STORE'S END; WOOLWORTHS TO SHUT DOWN.

Byline: Rachel Beck Associated Press

It was the anchor of Main Street, where generations went for a thimble, a mop or even a bite to eat.

But the dime-store era officially came to an end Thursday with Woolworth Corp.'s announcement that it would shut all its 400 remaining five-and-dime stores nationwide and lay off 9,200 workers.

Faced with unbeatable competition from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other big discounters, F.W. Woolworth stores couldn't survive as shoppers left downtown America for giant malls and outlet centers.

``Woolworth was the last of the five-and-dime stores,'' said Kurt Barnard, a retail consultant and president of Barnard's Retail Marketing Report. ``Years back, people depended on five-and-dimes for everything; today others fill those needs.''

Woolworth was the original five-and-dime store, founded in 1879 in Lancaster, Pa., by Frank Woolworth. The stores boomed in prewar downtowns and became fixtures in suburban strip shopping centers.

Others like McCrory Corp. and Ben Franklin copied its concept, offering shoppers a mix of merchandise from beach chairs to beauty aids, all under one roof. They, too, have fallen in recent years, both landing in bankruptcy court.

Woolworth even played a role in the civil rights movement. After four African-American students were denied lunch at its Greensboro, N.C., store, a 50-city protest erupted, and Woolworth eventually changed its discriminatory practices in 1960.

But the heyday of F.W. Woolworth is long gone. Last year, the five-and-dime stores in the United States reported an operating loss of $37 million and only accounted for $1 billion of Woolworth Corp.'s annual sales of over $8 billion.

``Closing of the Woolworth stores is long overdue,'' said retail consultant Walter Loeb. ``Today's Woolworth store was just not viable.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1--Color) Quadiyyah Haywood works the register at the F.W. Woolworth store in Columbus, Ohio.

(2) Employees at a Woolworth store pose in the early 1900's.

Associated Press
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 18, 1997
Words:319
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