Over forty years ago a young salesman in a hardware store observed that the store had a lot of odds and ends, which were out of date and not selling. Having time on his hands, he rigged up a special table in the middle of the store. He loaded it with some of this un-saleable merchandise, marking it the bargain price of a dime an article. To his surprise and that of the owner of the store, the gadgets sold like hot cakes.
Out of the experience grew the great F W Woolworth Five and Ten-Cent chain store system. The young man who stumbled upon the idea by going the extra mile was Frank W Woolworth. That idea yielded him a fortune estimated at more than $550,000,000. Moreover, the same idea made several other persons rich, and applications of the idea are at the heart of many of the more profitable merchandising systems in America.
No one told young Woolworth to exercise his right to personal initiative. No one paid him for doing so, yet his action led to ever-increasing returns for his efforts. Once he put the idea into practice, increasing returns nearly ran him down.
There is something about this habit of doing more than one is paid for which works in one's behalf even while he sleeps. Once it begins to work, it piles up riches so fast that it seems like queer magic which, like Aladdin's Lamp, draws to one's aid an army of genies, which come laden with bags of gold.
How far you are willing to go?
About Woolworth stores:
F.W. Woolworth was the retail phenomenon of the twentieth century. The mass-market shop sold factory-made goods at rock bottom prices. It was the first brand to go global, building to more than 3,000 near-identical stores across the world.
At its height it generated such riches that its Founder was able to put up the world's tallest building and pay for it in cash. Its shares were the gold standard of the New York and London markets, paying dividends that others could only dream of. To become a supplier was considered a licence to print money.
Part of its magic was an ability to adapt to fit into different local communities and to 'go native', without sacrificing its identity. Shoppers in the UK considered 'Woolies' as British as fish and chips, while Americans continued to call the chain 'the five-and-ten' more than sixty years after the limits were dropped.
But, having risen like a meteor, all the way to the top, it faded into a peaceful retirement in the USA and Canada in the 1990s, before falling like a stone in the UK in 2008. The British chain went from normal trading in 800 stores to complete shutdown in just 41 days. In Spring 2009 the German F.W. Woolworth GmbH declared itself insolvent. It has since trimmed down and re-emerged as a chain of 150 small department stores with plans to expand. In Great Britain the brand was soon revived on-line.