We opened our doors for business on Friday, 5 December 1924.
On Friday, 5 December 1924, Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement opened for business in Sydney's Imperial Arcade.
Percy Christmas, Founding CEO said of the event: ‘Every city needs a Woolworths: Sydney has it now. Every man, woman and child needs a handy place where good things are cheap.’
Little did he know, that more than 92 years later, these words would still form the basis of our team philosophy and values.
We officially became a ‘chain’ when our second store opened on 6 August 1927.
It was never our intention to develop into a ‘chain’, but when we were offered a bargain priced premises on Queen Street in Brisbane, we had to accept it.
The depression years were wreaking havoc across the world, but for some reason, Woolworths continued to grow.
In 1929, we opened our first store in New Zealand and by 1930, we had 16 stores across New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Radio advertising was the next big thing and we wanted in on it.
Up until the mid-1930s, we had always advertised in the daily newspapers. But in 1937, we decided to give the relatively new medium of radio a go – sponsoring the popular evening programme, ‘Rhythm Round Up’ on Station GB, Sydney.
Not only did this launch a new phase of our development, it also helped kick-off the career of leading radio personality, Jack Davey, who up until becoming the Woolworths compere, was relatively unknown.
Giving the team security in their retirement.
Our success meant that we were in a position to create an assurance scheme that would provide Woolworths employees with the security they needed in their retirement.
After all, these were the people that had seen us through the great depression – the ones who’d worked tirelessly to help us come out, unscathed, on the other side.
The scheme was made retrospective to the company’s foundation (all the way back to 1924) so that all employees would be covered from the day they joined the team.
As the company grew, so did our need for additional warehouse space.
Our first warehouse was established over two floors above the Oxford Street, Sydney store in 1929.
The space was quickly outgrown – as were two subsequent sites – so we acquired a larger, more permanent site in Sydney’s inner west.
By 1948, Brisbane, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania had their own warehouses, as did Western Australia in 1957.
World War II changed everything for Woolworths, as we were called to do our duty.
World War II brought the company’s development to a halt as hundreds of Woolworths’ men and women left their posts to fight for their country.
Throughout the war, company employees who’d stayed at home sent regular company-subsidised parcels and letters to colleagues on the frontline.
They also raised significant funds to support ambulances and other comfort funds.
By 1955, shoppers were doing it for themselves.
Although common place today, Woolworths’ first self-service stores revolutionised the shopping experience – allowing customers to select their purchases in-store and pay at cash registers at the front.
Our first self-service store – located in Sydney’s Beverley Hills – was quickly followed by dozens of other stores wanting to jump on board with this pioneering formula.
The mid-1950s saw us open our first ever dedicated food store.
Woolworths’ first dedicated food store was opened in Sydney’s Dee Why in 1957.
The Grocery range was limited, but included fresh vegetables, delicatessen items and packaged fresh meat sold out of refrigerated cabinets.
There were celebrations all round the day we opened our 300th store.
Queues lined the block as we prepared to open the doors of our 300th store, in Wentworthville NSW.
In just four years, we had experienced unprecedented growth, thanks to the revolution of self-service and dedicated food stores.
The acquisition of Queensland’s BCC stores also helped us open a further 100 stores throughout the state.
The swinging 60s were coming, and we were ready for them.
Woolworths becomes Australia’s first nationwide retailer.
After acquiring Centralian Traders in Alice Springs, we became the first retailer to operate Australia-wide.
This was a momentous occasion for the business, as at last, the ‘Woolies’ name had become an Australian institution. We had finally achieved our mission to deliver quality and value to every state and territory in the country.
Our first supermarket heralded a new beginning for Woolworths.
In 1960, we began to develop what we now know as purpose-built supermarkets.
Under one roof – with adjacent parking – customers could access a range of food and variety goods at value prices.
Our first – built in Warrawong, New South Wales – was such a success that store plans still on the drawing board, were reviewed and immediately converted to adopt the new model.
The next few decades would see us become one of Australia’s favourite drinks retailers.
In 1960, Woolworths purchased a store that already had a limited license to sell alcohol.
Spotting an opportunity for growth, other stores followed suit with a raft of license applications throughout the 1960s and 70s.
By 1984, all Group stores with a drinks license were consolidated into one trading unit and in 1998 we entered into contracts with Dan Murphy.
Hot on the heels of this success, we opened our first premium drinks store – First Estate – in 2001, and established BWS.
Woolworths steps up to the plate in terms of quality control.
In 1964, we decided to take our commitment to quality to the next level by opening our very own Quality Assurance Laboratory – independent of the buying department.
While still responsible for testing foodstuffs, a large part of our analysts’ job was to check samples of general merchandise to make sure the quality expected by our customers was the quality we delivered.
Woolworths introduces our first range of Own Brand products.
From 1930, we had always marketed our products with the Woolworths logo (or under the house name, Judith Arden). But in 1973, we decided to introduce a comprehensive range of ‘Own Brands’.
Ten years later, this was superseded by our ‘Home Brands’ offering: 150 products – mostly basic food and grocery lines – in generic black and white packaging with a distinctive red and white Home Brand logo.
Later, in 2005, we added ‘Woolworths Select’ – a more premium offering designed to cater to those looking for a higher standard of quality.
Australia gets a taste for discounts with its first BIG W.
When BIG W opened its doors for business in Tamworth, NSW, nobody expected it to be the enormous success it was.
But by the end of 1978, we had opened 13 BIG W discount stores across all five States and even one in the ACT.
The start of our exciting journey into the world of electronics retail.
In 1981, Woolworths acquired 60% of the companies owned and operated by Dick Smith Electronics (the remaining 40% would follow in 1983).
Later, in 2001, we added Tandy to the Dick Smiths Electronics Division, and in 1996, we opened the first Dick Smith PowerHouse, in Bankstown, NSW.
A good name in safe hands.
American Safeway Inc. had operated in Australia since 1963. But in 1985, Woolworths acquired all 126 of its Australian stores.
The following year, every Woolworths supermarket in Victoria was rebranded with the Safeway look and feel to reflect the change.
The year we became the the Fresh Food People.
Woolworths launched the “Fresh Food People” campaign after implementing a new buying, merchandising and training program across our fresh food departments.
This focus on fresh foods clearly differentiated us from other supermarkets, and has remained our key selling point and philosophy to this day.
The end of the road for an Australian icon?
For the first time in sixty-three years, no final dividend was recommended or paid on Woolworths’ shares.
The following year, IEL advised of an unconditional offer for all shares to be bought at $3.65 cash per share.
Our Directors recommended acceptance of this offer, and on 28 April 1989 – having acquired 98.4% of our shares – IEL preceded with the compulsory acquisition of the remaining Woolworths shares.
Later that year, The Woolworths Group’s shares were de-listed and the company no longer appeared on the Stock Exchange.
A year of getting back on our feet.
On 19 May 1993, our Chairman, Paul Simons announced that shares in the business would be offered to the public in Australia’s largest ever share float.
The company was re-listed on the stock exchange over the following month and 19,000 Woolworths employees were offered shares under our new Employee Share Plan.
Time for a whole new way of doing business.
Project Refresh was our home-grown business change program – designed to help us realign and transform the way we managed the Group.
Results driven and focused on best practice, our first task was to find ways to improve efficiency and eliminate waste and duplication.
Taking our drinks and hotel operations to a whole new level.
In 2004, our drink and hotel operations took a gigantic leap forward with the acquisition of Australian Leisure and Hospitality Limited.
Woolworths opens the first Croma store in Mumbai, India.
Croma is India’s first chain of multi-brand outlets for consumer electronics and durable products.
As their wholesaler, we’re responsible for providing their entire inventory of stock – as well as lending a hand with their IT, training and store layout.
Woolworths enters a joint venture with the U.S. home improvement retailer.
2009 was a big year for Woolworths. Not only did we join forces with US superbrand, Lowe’s, we also launched the Masters Home Improvement business and acquired the Danks Group of hardware businesses.
Lifting the health of the nation.
Macro Own Brand was launched to make our customers feel right at home with ingredients that are loaded with nutritious goodness.
The range offers products that are low in fat, sugar and salt, while being high in good stuff, like protein, fibre, calcium and vitamins.
Reimagining home improvement with the launch of Masters
Our Masters Home Improvement stores are built to stock more than 35,000 different product lines – from outdoor furniture to new bathrooms, complete with all the accessories.
Each team member is an expert in their department and is always on hand to assist and support customers wherever they can.
In 2012 Masters launched its e-commerce store, becoming the first online Hardware and Home Improvement store in Australia.
Taking our drink business online.
Since its humble beginnings in 1982, Cellarmasters has grown to become one of the largest direct wine marketers in the world.
Each week, around 21,000 cases of wine leave our Barossa Valley warehouses to be delivered straight to the front doors of thousands of customers around the country.
Woolworths acquired the Cellarmasters business in 2011 and has never looked back.