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Frank Woolworth

Frank Winfield Woolworth (April 13 1852-August 8 1919) was an American merchant. Born in Rodman, New York, he was the founder of F.W. Woolworth Company, an operator of discount stores that priced merchandise and five and ten centss. He pioneered the now-common practices of buying merchandise direct from manufacturers and fixing prices on items, rather than haggling.

The son of a farmer, Woolworth aspired to be a merchant. He worked for six years in a drygoods store, where he observed a passing fad. Leftover items were priced at five cents and placed on a table. Woolworth liked the idea, so he borrowed $300 to open a store where all items were priced at five cents.

Woolworth's first five-cent store, established in Utica, New York on February 22, 1879, failed within weeks. At his second store, established in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in April 1879, he expanded the concept to include merchandise priced at ten cents. The second store was successful, and Woolworth and his brother, Charles S. Woolworth, opened a large number of five-and-ten-cent stores.

In 1911, the F.W. Woolworth Company was incorporated, uniting 586 stores founded by the Woolworth brothers and others.

In 1913, Woolworth built the Woolworth Building in New York City at a cost of $13.5 million in cash. At the time, it was the tallest building in the world, measuring 792 feet, or 241.4 meters.

Woolworth died in April 1919 at the age of 66. At the time, his company owned more than 1,000 stores in the United States and other countries and was a $65 million corporation.

By 1997, the chain he founded had been reduced to 400 stores. It went out of business on July 17, 1997.

The UK stores continued after the US operation failed and now trade as Woolworths.

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