|Predecessor||F. W. Woolworth Co|
|Successor||Woolworths Group (1909–2009)|
|Founded||23 April 1914|
|Defunct||6 October 1984|
|Headquarters||Dublin, Republic of Ireland|
|Parent||F. W. Woolworth plc|
Woolworths (Ireland) was a retail chain that operated on the island of Ireland. Woolworths had operated stores in the Republic of Ireland until 1984, while stores in Northern Ireland became fully part of F. W. Woolworth plc and these stores lasted until 2009 when the Woolworths Group fell into administration.
During the 70 years of operations, Woolworths established itself at the heart of Irish shopping and stores sourced about 80% of their range locally, offering Irish equivalents to the items usually carried in Woolworths stores in Britain.
The first F. W. Woolworth store in Ireland opened on 23 April 1914 on Grafton Street in Dublin. Plans for an outlet in the industrial north had continued despite the outbreak of World War I, with a new opening on High Street in Belfast on 6 November 1915. After this, more stores opened in towns and cities throughout Ireland. In 1921, the company's two stores in Dublin were forcibly closed by agents of Sinn Féin, an event which the American parent had not anticipated might happen when entering the Dublin market.:68
By 1931, a decision had been made to liquidate the profitable F.W. Woolworth Company of Ireland, Ltd. and merge with the British concern in order to form one company covering both Ireland and Great Britain—F.W. Woolworth & Co., Ltd., of England.:86–7 At the time, there were six stores in Ireland: two in Dublin and one each in Belfast, Cork, Kilkenny and Limerick.:86 In 1966, the Grafton Street store had been rebuilt in the modern style where the new look mimicked an identical transformation which had recently been completed at the store in Limerick.
On 23 October 1971, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, three men in their twenties were shot by the British Army on the roof of the Hill Street Woolworths store they were reportedly planning to rob.
In the 1970s, the Cork and Tipperary stores also had makeovers and in 1980 alone the stores on Henry Street in Dublin, Limerick and Waterford had all been modernised, while Galway had been the last store to be refurbished before the American majority shareholders sold out in 1982.
At the same time under-performing stores had been weeded out. The branch in Thomas Street, Dublin, which had been a disaster, had been closed in the 1960s, followed by Carlow, which had pioneered self-service in the Irish chain in 1971, and the branches in Bray and Thurles. The modernisation of the Tipperary store caused its sales and profit to collapse, causing the store to close in 1978.
Withdrawal from the Republic
In 1983, Woolworths informed staff of its intention to pick 37 freehold branches to be sold. When news broke in April 1984 that the Grafton Street branch had been sold for IR£4.75 million few were surprised. It occupied a prime spot, and its IR£1.6 million annual turnover had long been eclipsed by its neighbour across the River Liffey in Henry Street, where sales had just topped IR£4m for the first time. Grafton Street had the equivalent of 30 full-time staff, all of whom were given the option of redundancy or a transfer to a neighbouring store. Most considered this a sad but acceptable sacrifice if it meant that judgement day had passed.
On 25 July 1984, Woolworths announced it would withdraw from the Republic altogether, arguing that almost all of the stores were loss-making and could no longer be considered viable. Semi-state bodies such as Córus Trácthála Teo (CTT), which championed the efforts of many small manufacturing concerns supplying Woolworths, were also oddly silent. In 1981, CTT had forecast that the IR£2.5m worth of Irish-made goods sold from Woolworths counters per annum would rise to IR£7m in 1982 and had expected further growth to rise to IR£15m over the next five years, but such optimistic hopes were dashed. All of the 18 remaining stores in the Republic closed on 6 October 1984 and resulted in 277 jobs being lost.
In August 1996, market research was undertaken by Woolworths investigating opportunities to re-enter the Republic of Ireland market. About 32 potential locations were identified that could support a Woolworths store. However, the project did not proceed beyond the market research phase.
Northern Ireland stores
After withdrawing from the Republic, F. W. Woolworth plc took full control of stores in Northern Ireland where these stores were popular with cross-border shoppers from the Republic, especially stores close to the Irish border. The stores continued to trade normally until the Woolworths Group went into administration in November 2008. Stores in Northern Ireland began to close during Christmas 2008 and the final stores closed on 3 January 2009, when the Woolworths brand disappeared from the island of Ireland.
- Pitrone, Jean Maddern (2003). F.W. Woolworth and the American Five and Dime: A Social History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 9780786414338. OCLC 869086403 – via Google Books.
- "(short piece - no title)". The Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio. Associated Press. June 3, 1931. p. 20. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- Killing of Sean Ruddy unjustified, belfasttelegraph.co.uk; accessed 25 April 2015.
- Seaton, Paul. "Withdrawal from the Republic of Ireland". The Woolworths Museum. 3D and 6D Pictures, Ltd. Archived from the original on December 26, 2017.
- McCullough, Alan (October 6, 1984). "18 Woolworths Stores Close". RTÉ Archives. Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
- "Revolving retailers: when 'Woolies' left Ireland, 1984". History Ireland. Vol. 19 no. 5 (Sept/Oct 2011). Dublin, Ireland: History Publications Ltd. 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- "Woolworths enters administration". One minute world news (Video). Reporting by Emma Simpson. BBC News. November 27, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Woolworths last UK store closes its doors". Belfast Telegraph. January 6, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2018.