UPDATED:

 

HEADQUARTERS :

 A Woolworth Division

 PRESIDENT :

 n/a

 EMPLOYEES :

 n/a

 STORES :

 336

 FOUNDED :

 1962

CLOSED :

 1982-83   (1994 Canada)

 

Slogan:  Price is just the begining! (Canada)

 

Woolco was a part of the Woolworth empire.  They were the discount division of Woolworth like K-mart was for S.S.Kresge Co.  Woolco obviously was their response to the new K-mart stores.  The Woolco division never had a huge success and everything was over by 1983.  On the other hand, the canadian Woolco stores managed to survive until 1994. 


The fate of Woolco vs. Woolworth was the virtual opposite of K-mart vs. Kresge. Whereas Kresge and their lesser-known Jupiter stores division fell by the wayside in the 1980s and the newly-renamed K-mart Corporation concentrated mainly on their successful discount stores.  The smaller Woolworth variety stores seemed to be doing somewhat better than the behemoth Woolco stores for some reason. Not that they weren't trying--they appeared to have everything a successful discount chain should have had, plus Red Grille restaurants in many locations.


In the 1970s they reduced the size of some of the larger stores and filled the empty space next door with a low-priced clothing division called J. Brannum, which was supposed to be short for Just Brand Names. But this didn't help and they closed their stores in Chicago and a few other cities by the end of the decade (or perhaps in 1980) in hopes of staying alive elsewhere. Their situation never improved over the next couple of years and at the start of the 1982 Christmas shopping season, Woolco made the sad announcement in TV and radio spots that the discount stores would call it quits after 20 years with a massive going out of business sale--one of the largest for that time. By January 1983, Woolco was a memory in the U.S.

 

WOOLCO CANADA OVERVIEW


Woolco had a bigger impact in Canada where the chain was more successful and lasted longer than its U.S. counterpart.  In Canada, Woolco was part of the Big Three discount retailers with Zellers and Kmart.  Woolco at operated 160 stores, Zellers had roughly 220 and Kmart 127.  Most Canadian Woolco stores were large and located in enclosed shopping malls.


In the 90's, Woolworth Canada was struggling and in 1994, Walmart saw the opportunity to enter Canada by acquiring 122 Woolco stores.  A nationwide liquidation sale began and the Woolco name dissapeared from the retail landscape.  Other locations and Woolworth stores eventually became TheBargain! Shop.


After a few years, Walmart felt squeezed at many of their mall locations and free-standing former Woolco buildings.  The Woolco stores were quite large but not enough to fit the Walmart format anymore.  Walmart never liked the mall locations because its successful format is the freestanding big box.


In Quebec City, Walmart opened in a former Woolco at «Galeries de la Capitale» mall.  They decided to build a larger free-standing store across the street from the mall.  Their former location at the mall became a Zellers.  That space has been a Woolco, then Walmart, and then Zellers and is slated to become Target in 2013.  The old Golden Harvest Cafeterias at former Woolco locations were replaced by McDonald's after the conversion to Walmart.

 

 

ME/NH/VT LOCATIONS

MAINE
Bangor
Ellsworth
North Windham
Caribou
Houlton
Millinocket
NEW HAMPSHIRE
Manchester
Nashua
Salem?
VERMONT
None

 Thanks to The Discount stores of the '60s for information about U.S. Woolco stores.



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