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History

North America

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An art gallery in Seattle's International District preserves the facade and some features of Higo Variety Store, an independent Japanese-American five and ten.
Kress Stores contributed iconic buildings to many American downtowns. This one is in Tampa, Florida.
F. W. Woolworth and S. S. Kresge stores on Lackawanna Avenue, in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania. The two stores were often found near one another in downtown areas.

The concept of the variety store originated with the five and ten, five and dime, nickel or dime (15 cents), and ten-cent store or dime store (10 cents), a store offering a wide assortment of inexpensive items for personal and household use.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> The originators of the concept were the Woolworth Bros., in July 1879. Woolworth Bros. later became F. W. Woolworth Company or just "Woolworth's." On June 21, 1879, Frank Winfield Woolworth opened his first successful five-cent store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after a failed attempt with a store he opened on February 22, 1879, in Utica, New York. Frank soon brought his brother Charles Sumner "Sum" Woolworth into the business. Together they opened a second store in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 18, 1879.

Before they started their own stores, the Woolworth brothers worked for Augsbury and Moore, a dry goods store in Watertown, New York. It was they who trained the Woolworth brothers and lent Frank $300 in goods. Frank settled his debt by the time he opened the Lancaster store. Frank experimented with a 10¢ table in Lancaster, and similarly to his experiment of a 5¢ table at Augsbury and Moore, it was a success. Sum managed the Harrisburg store, crammed it with goods, hired clerks, and also added a table with a ten-cent line of goods. Once again, the approach was a huge success.

Because of a rent dispute, Sum soon moved the Harrisburg store to York, Pennsylvania and on November 6, 1880, he opened the store in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, and formally called it a "5¢ & 10¢ store". There, he developed and fully established the nickel-and-dime concept into American culture. Frank spent time opening more stores, working the back end of the business, buying in bulk for all affiliates and "friendly rivals," and buying manufacturers to keep prices low. Meanwhile, Sum used his store to train new managers and develop many of the Woolworth concepts which included bright lighting, a polished high-luster floor, glass showcases, mahogany counters, and goods people could touch. Before this, clerks had to work with each customer individually, handing them goods from cases or shelves. This required more clerks, with greater knowledge, and so cost more.

Before Woolworth, the prevailing thought was an entire store could not maintain itself with all low-priced goods. The Woolworth Bros. and their affiliated partner stores originally featured goods priced at only five cents and ten cents. Many other people tried to copy their lead.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

Later in the twentieth century the price range expanded; Woolworths did a strictly "five-and-ten cent" business, but in the spring of 1932 a 20-cent line of merchandise was added. On November 13, 1935 the company's directors decided to discontinue selling price limits altogether.<ref>Pages 45–58 Club Members Remember Shopping at Woolworth's Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society History Quarterly Source: April 1994 Volume 32 Number 2</ref> Inflation eventually dictated that the stores were no longer able to sell any items for five or ten cents, and were then referred to as "variety stores" or more commonly "dollar stores". Using the Historical Consumer Price Index for January 1913 (9.8) and January 2009 (211.143), the rate of inflation change is 2,067%. Therefore, an item costing $0.05 in January 1913 would cost $1.08 in January 2009 dollars, all other things being equal.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Well-known dime store companies included:<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

Of these, only Ben Franklin continues to exist in this form, while Kresge and Walton's became mega-retailers Kmart and Walmart. The last U.S. Woolworth's-branded variety store closed in 1997; however the Woolworth company had success with its subsidiary sports retailer Foot Locker, and the company's name has been officially changed to Foot Locker to reflect the new focus of the business. Beginning around the 1960s, others tried the larger "discount store" format as well, such as W.T. Grant, Woolworth's Woolco stores, and TG&Y Family Centers.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

United Kingdom

Woolworth's opened its first store in the United Kingdom in 1909, when they were also colloquially known as "threepenny and sixpenny" stores, "3d and 6d" being displayed on the shops' frontages.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref><ref> {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>


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