The influence of American retailing innovation in Great Britain: A case study of F.W. Woolworth & Co., 1909-1982
AbstractThis article explores the diffusion of American retailing innovation in Great Britain with a case study of F.W. Woolworth & Co. from its foundation in 1909 to its divestment by its American parent company in 1982. Initially Woolworthʼs British subsidiary introduced a retail format modelled on that of its American parent company, cheap high quality variety merchandise with three fixed prices, one, three and six pence. The management team was led by American executives and Woolworth family members together with Britons recruited by the founder, Frank Winfield Woolworth. As Woolworthʼs British subsidiary steadily increased the number of stores during its first two decades, the Americans were succeeded by Britons. Woolworthʼs American retail format proved to be very successful in Britain until the end of the 1930 s. However, Woolworthʼs retail format became unsustainable in Britain during the 1940 s as a result of wartime inflation followed by the increase of the rate of purchase tax on some of its merchandise. By the early 1950s fixed prices had been abandoned. During the subsidiaryʼs final three decades it ceased to be dynamic because it was led by a succession of conservative British managers who were reluctant to adapt to the changing British and international retail environment. During the early post-war period they resisted the adoption of self-service retailing which had been embraced by its American parent company. Later during the 1960s and 1970s the subsidiaryʼs British managers resisted and obstructed the diffusion from America to Britain of the parent companyʼs out-of-town discount department store format, Woolco.
CitationHawkins, R. (2022) The influence of American retailing innovation in Great Britain: A case study of F.W. Woolworth & Co., 1909-1982. Japan Marketing History Review, 1(1), pp. 74-95.
PublisherMarketing History Society of Japan
JournalJapan Marketing History Review
Description© 2022 The Author. Published by the Marketing History Society of Japan. This is an open access article available under a Creative Commons licence. The published version can be accessed at the following link on the publisher’s website: https://doi.org/10.51102/jmhr.1.1_74
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/