Beyond the Five and Dime: The Growth of K-Mart and Wal-Mart

Beyond the Five and Dime: The Growth of K-Mart and Wal-Mart
Rosalynn Carter: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One or two class periods


K-Mart and Wal-Mart are staples of many American towns.  The development of these new variety stores has changed the retail landscape of America.  This is especially true of the time period beginning in the 1970s and continues to this day. 


The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the origins of the new variety stores and to assess the impact of these stores on the retail makeup of America’s communities.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print reference materials.


1.  Divide the class into four groups and assign each group one of the following topics:

  • History of the Five and Dime Store and Woolworth’s
  • Development of K-Mart
  • Development of Wal-Mart
  • Reasons for community resistance to these large retailers

2.  The groups will research their topic and the first three groups will make a presentation to the class of their findings from their research. 
3.  The teacher should then assist the students in comparing and contrasting the origins, early history, and development of Woolworth’s, K-Mart, and Wal-Mart.  The fourth group will then present their findings  on resistance to the “Marts,” and then the whole group will be re-divided between the K-Mart and Wal-Mart groups.
4.  The teacher will tell the students that now they are an expert panel representing their retailer.  It is their job to develop an effective plan for the introduction of their store into a community that does not have either retailer but where opposition to the store is expected. 

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by inviting representatives from Wal-Mart and K-Mart in to talk with the class.  If these stores are unavailable, students might write to the nearest store, asking for information.

Sources & Resources:

 F. W. Woolworth Co. 
Dime Stores/Woolworth’s 



This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.