Woolworth plans major changes at 900 stores Retailer says revamping will affect 10,000 employees. Recession blamed for poor sales.

January 09, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

Woolworth Corp., the retailer best known for the old-fashioned dime stores that once graced many downtown centers, says it will close, sell or revamp 900 money-losing outlets in the United States in a sweeping overhaul designed to boost its recession-starved sales and profits.

The retailer, which operates 6,500 general merchandise and specialty stores across the nation, said that up to 10,000 of its 70,000 employees in the United States would be affected.

However, the company could not say how many of those employees would be laid off, noting that many affected workers would be transferred to other Woolworth-operated stores. The changes are expected to begin shortly and be completed by the middle of 1993.

Although Woolworth routinely opens and closes outlets across the country to reflect changing demographic and economic patterns, company officials said the persistent recession that has ravaged American retailers forced it now into undertaking one of its most dramatic and sweeping overhauls ever.

"It wasn't just poor Christmas sales," said a company spokesman. "Our performance for all of 1991 was disappointing. The economic conditions are what drove this move."

Woolworth, an American institution that traces its roots back to 1879, said that it would close 25 percent of its Kinney shoe stores, 15 percent of its Kids Mart and Little Folk Shops children's apparel stores, and 8 percent of its more than 1,000 traditional Woolworth and Woolworth Express general merchandise outlets throughout the country.

In all, about 450 stores would be closed or sold, while the rest would be revamped into members of one of its more successful retail families, such as Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker and Athletic X-Press, all sport shoe outlets, and Northern Reflections, a women's outdoor sports wear chain.

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