The first Woolco stores were located on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. By 1966 there were 18 in the United States and nine in Canada. Plans were for 30 stores to be added per year. This led to tremendous growth as over 300 Woolco stores opened up across North America by the mid 1970s.
The company experimented with both Woolco and a more downscale merchandising unit called Worth Mart in the mid 1960s. Woolco was the eventual winner with customers, and the Worth Mart stores were folded into Woolco's store base by the 1970s.
At the outset, Woolco stores were considered by the company to be "promotional department stores," with expanded product lines and other amenities not typically found at namesake Woolworth stores.
A number of Woolco stores were opened in the UK in the same period. These were spun off along with the British Woolworths chain in 1982 and subsequently sold by Kingfisher plc to Gateway in 1986 and ASDA Wal-Mart in 1988.
The typical Woolco store was well over 100,000 square feet, which was quite large for a discount store of that era. Many of its departments were leased to third-party operators, a common practice among early discounters.
Starting in the late 1970s, Woolworth enacted a cost-saving plan for Woolco that included a reduction in floor space for the largest locations, the elimination of most leased departments and an expansion into smaller markets with stores as small as 60,000 square feet. During this period, the excess space in some larger Woolco stores went to a Woolworth-owned off-price clothing retailer called J. Brannam, which was short for "Just Brand Names"
By 1979, it became clear that the earlier cost-saving plan would not be enough to save Woolco from failure, so Woolworth combined the discount store operating unit with its variety stores and began to close stores in unprofitable markets including Chicago.
Wal-Mart expects to turn a profit this year on newly acquired chains. (Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Pace Membership Warehouse Inc. and Woolco)
Sep 29, 1994; SAN FRANCISCO (FNS) -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., expects its two big recent acquisitions 99 PACE units from Kmart Corp. and 122...