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Major Global Expansion Plans Mapped by Woolworth Corp.

NEW YORK -- Woolworth Corp. has gone around the world in 85 years, and has charted aggressive global expansion to take it into the next century.<BR><BR>The company has been operating stores internationally since 1909. It has planted stores in 14...

NEW YORK — Woolworth Corp. has gone around the world in 85 years, and has charted aggressive global expansion to take it into the next century.

The company has been operating stores internationally since 1909. It has planted stores in 14 countries and expanded its foreign business to account for 40 percent of its $10 billion in revenues.

Much of that growth has come within the past few years, according to Frederick E. Hennig, president and chief operating officer, who was one of the speakers at a meeting of the Retail Marketing Society here last week.

Woolworth’s specialty chains are the primary vehicle for global growth. Among these are Northern Reflections, a casualwear retailer with 250 sites in the U.S. and 180 in Canada; Afterthoughts, with 1,100 accessories stores around the world, and the athletic specialty group.

Foot Locker, including its family of World Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker and Kids Foot Locker, has seen very aggressive growth in recent years, said Hennig. Many of its 200 European units were opened in the past three years. The firm expects to have at least 1,000 Foot Locker stores in Europe by 2000.

In December, the first Foot Locker opened in Hong Kong. Based on its “incredible” reception, the company plans additional units in Asia and expects to be operating in China within the year, Hennig added. He declined to say how many units are projected in those countries.

Foot Locker and the other athletic specialty stores, like Champs Sports and Going to the Game, have 3,500 units worldwide, with a goal of 4,500 by 2000. This year, the firm expects to open 120 to 140 Foot Locker stores in Canada and 50 to 75 units in Italy, Germany, France and the U.K.

In total, Woolworth slates some 500 foreign store openings in 1994.

“Consumers worldwide recognize and want American labels like Nike,” Hennig said. “There has been an Americanization of fashion taste levels that has been projected through American movies and TV. We’ve planned our specialty-store concepts to reflect that image.”

Hennig stated that the crucial elements to Woolworth’s success in international markets include maintaining a consistent image — for example, a Foot Locker sales clerk always wears a black-and-white striped referee’s shirt, no matter where the store is — and taking advantage of local management and global sourcing.

Management information systems are standardized in all 7,500 specialty stores in foreign markets, and data on dollar volume, unit sales and inventory status anywhere in the world is available to the Manhattan corporate headquarters on a daily basis.