Woolworth USA and Canada's Hundredth Birthday in 1979
21 June 1879 marked a major landmark as the F. W. Woolworth Co. celebrated its centenary with a series of special events. A century after Frank Woolworth had opened his Great Five Cent Store in North Queen Street, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the focus was on sales generation. The birthday captured the attention of the media. It received extensive TV coverage and a nostalgic feature in Time Magazine, as well as thousands of column inches of local press coverage. The stories diverted attention from a fierce bid battle raging behind the scenes.
The stores were issued with a series of five framed posters for the windows and checkouts area. They were headed "Values our Tradition since 1879", and showed animated scenes of some of the earliest branches. They became a popular talking point, even in the most run-down five-and-tens.
A well orchestrated promotional campaign brought fresh bargains every fortnight to create a sale atmosphere in honour of the birthday. This helped Woolworth's to re-assert is value credentials and to showcase its newer ranges of fashions, electricals and larger items. Spending rose as nostalgic TV ads prompted a trip to the 5 & 10¢ for a vanilla coke, a soda from the fountain, some popcorn or an ex-chart record for 69¢.
In the birthplace, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the a special 100th Anniversary supplement was distributed with the local paper. The covers featured group photographs of the store staff, from both the in-town North Queen Street branch and the state-of-the-art store in the nearby Lancaster Park City Shopping Center. Inside it contained a 12-page potted history, which included details of its international operations in Britain, Germany, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The celebration giveways included coloring books, menus with the slogan 'The Tradition of Value Lives On', free clown toys and finger puzzles and plastic six inch rulers. But, where once Frank Woolworth had insisted that promotional items had to be particularly well-made, older American Managers remember that every expense had been spared in assembling the selection of freebies.
There was something more elaborate for Investors and Associates. The Annual Report was distributed in a presentation sleeve and contained two full colour booklets, one telling the story of the first hundred years in words and pictures, and the other looking to the future, with a review of current trading and the business plan. It featured photographs of all of the subsidiaries around the world.
Large gold-coloured commemorative coins were struck for employees. Stockholders were treated to a smart paperweight encasing their coins. It was hoped that the 3,000-strong chain would enjoy another century of success.
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