24th September 2022

Woolworths: 1924 onwards

Although we now know Coles and Woolworths (and previously Safeway; absorbed into Woolworth in 2008) as supermarkets, they were originally variety stores. The move into food retailing occurred during the post WW2 years, but the selling of household items such as haberdashery continues to this day.

The City of Sydney Archives #048\048051. The first store shared the basement of the Imperial Arcade with a newspaper and billiard room, but was cheap!

The Sun (Sydney), 28th December 1924 page 18. Woolworths had only opened several weeks earlier on the 5th December.

Woolworths was started by five men, H.P. Christmas, S.E. Chatterton, C. Scott Waine, G.W.P Creed and E. R. Williams. Haberdashery was sold from the beginning, with cards of buttons advertised in newspapers from 1930.

From an article in the Australian Women’s Weekly, 28th June 1967 page 16.

Variety/bargain stores such as Coles and Woolworths had done well, even through the Great Depression:

Smith’s Weekly (Sydney), 4th November 1939 page p.

The war limited supply of good, but it was reported that this was easing in March 1946. They then controlled over 100 stores. By 1956 they had over 200 stores, and by 1967 they had nearly 1000 stores, employing nearly 30,000 Australian and New Zealanders.

Like Coles, they invested in home brands. The first, in 1928, was simply called Woolworths’. Later came Chevron, St Mark’s, Tania, Grandway, and Home Brand.

Australian Women’s Weekly 16th October 1974, page 35, showing the 5 home-brands of that time. The big, red ‘W’ was used from 1972.

This is a variation of the logo used from 1957-1967.

They now sell Korbond brand haberdashery. Korbond Industries Pty. Ltd. is an Australian firm, founded in Sydney in 1956, specialising in the manufacture and distribution of haberdashery.

Australian Women’s Weekly, 3rd February 1982 page 68.

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