Australian Supermarket & Duopoly (Chapter 1)

Kaustav Ghosh

Abstract: – A supermarket is usually known as a large self-service shop offering a wide variety of food, beverages, and many types of household products, organized into various sections. This kind of store is the larger and wider version of earlier grocery stores. From the mid-twentieth century, supermarkets started their journey. In 1915 Vincent Astor started an open-air Astor market. In 1916 Claurance Saunders started the first self-service grocery store. In India, supermarket set sails its voyage in the late twentieth century. But in this article, our research and findings will be limited to the scenario of an Australian supermarket.  Australian supermarkets had the history of highest levels of concentration among all developed economies by the early twenty-first century. In Australian supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths have the most shares. This paper will try to analyze why in the Australian supermarket there is a duopoly comprising of Coles and Woolworths.

Chapter I

History of Australian Supermarket

Introduction– Many grocery chains were offering self-service in Australia, but in 1938 Farr’s market advertises them as the first supermarket. In 1923 Brisbane Cash and Carry (BCC) was opened by Claud Archibald Fraser, who introduced paying cash over the counter. Thus, eliminating the necessity of book debts and bookkeeping in the store, which means a saving to the consumer. Meanwhile, in 1947, Buckinghams, a large department store in Sidney, were advertising their supermarket situated downstairs 69 Oxford Street to be the first supermarket in Australia.  In fact, the then concept of the supermarket was heard mainly in Australian newspapers before the term caught on in this country. Many travellers returning from the U.S.A or from any European countries became very enthusiastic about the super-markets where a to z of household or kitchen products could be purchased under one roof. But the reality is none of these stores was a supermarket as we understand it today. In another aspect, we can say that these supermarket companies are the nascent form of today’s supermarket.

Coles Supermarkets: – Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd, is a Melbourne-based Australian supermarket, retail, and customer service chain. It was founded in 1914 by the then young Sir George James Coles. Now Coles has more than one lakh employees and accounts for around or more than 27 percent of Australian supermarket shares. By mid- twentieth century Coles stores started converting its old stores as self-service stores which is the todays’ modern form of supermarket. Within 1973, Sir G.J.Coles established its supermarket stores in every big city and every capital city of Australia. From 1991 to 1998 these stores were rebranded as Coles supermarkets whereas from and after 1998 these stores were simply known as Coles. Coles supermarketon his first day of opening promised “nothing over 1”.[1] In the 1980’s  Cole’s slogan was “You’ll find the best value is at Coles New World”.[2]

In 2010, Coles launched a new sub-slogan, “Down Down, Prices Are Down”, it was inspired by the tune of “Down Down”, a 1975 hit by British rockers Status Quo.[3] In 2011, the same sub-slogan was revised to fit the tune of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown”.[4] In May 2017 the “Down Down” slogan was again refreshed with singer and performer of the then Australian idol  C.Donovan with a new disco version of the advertisement. [5] Lastly from 2020, Coles slogan was ‘Value the Australian Way’[6].

Woolworth’s Supermarket- Woolworths is the New South Wales, Australia-based grocery store, retail, customer self-service, and supermarket chain. It is owned by Woolworths Group. As of the end of June 2020 Woolworths group has 987 supermarkets and 115,000 employees which makes them Australia’s biggest supermarket chain with a supermarkets’ share of 33% as of 2019. Woolworths Limited (now Woolworths Group) was founded on 22 September 1924 by five Australian entrepreneurs – Percy Christmas, Stanley Chatterton, Cecil Scott Waine, George Creed and Ernest Williams.[7] The first store was opened on 5 December 1924 in Pitt Street of Sydney’s Imperial Arcade, called “Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement”[8]. Consumer interest in the company grew after December 1924, as more branches of the store were established across Australia. Woolworths stores began selling a variety of goods, claiming the lowest prices as well as money-back guarantees.[9] At the forefront of innovation in Australia, Woolworths stores became the first variety store in the world to install receipt printing cash register machines in 1926.[10]

The second Woolworths supermarket was opened on 6 August 1927, on Queen Street in Brisbane.[11] In 2018, Woolworths Group stopped providing single-use plastic bags during checkout at the same time as Coles Supermarkets, bringing them in line with Australia’s third-biggest supermarket, Aldi.[12]

In the following three months, Australian’s plastic bag use dropped by 80%, leading to 1.5 billion fewer bags going to landfill[13]. Woolworths also committed to removing 180 tonnes of plastic packaging from their products in 2018[14].

In 1987, Woolworths launched the “Fresh Food People” campaign after implementing new company protocols for their fresh food departments.[15] The slogan changed slightly in 2012 to “Australia’s Fresh Food People” to promote the fact that 96% of fresh produce sold in Woolworths supermarkets is grown in Australia.[16] In 2014 the original “The Fresh Food People” slogan returned with a new lineup of television commercials[17].

Other supermarket companies in Australia- Spudshed is an independent supermarket chain based in Western Australia that started its journey in November 1998. It is the first store in Australia which operates 24 hours a day. Friendly Grocer (formerly known as Four Square), a supermarket chain, was founded in New Zealand in the year 1923. It expanded its business in Australia in 1956. The current slogan of this supermarket chain is “Just around the corner”. ALDI is the common brand of two German family-owned discount supermarket chains which has many supermarket stores in various cities of Australia. Harris Farm Markets, an Australian supermarket chain with 26 different locations, was established in 1971. It is Australia’s biggest individual retail chain which provides fruits and vegetables. It also promotes ‘imperfect picks’ at lower prices for reducing landfills. India at Home is the Melbourne-based another Australian supermarket chain that was founded by Rajesh Bhatia in the year 2005.


[2] Ibid.

[3] “Woolworths sees shake-up in discretionary retail”. Business Spectator. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2021.

[4] Collier, Karen (6 July 2011). “Coles’ annoying ‘Down Down’ jingle here to stay”. Herald-Sun. Retrieved 21 July 2021.



[7] Davidson, Grant (30 April 2018). “The inspiration behind 10 of Australia’s iconic brand names”. Davidson Branding. Retrieved 22 July 2021.


[9] ibid

[10] ibid




[14] &



[17] Murray, James (1999). The Woolworths Way. A Great Australian Success Story 1924-1999. New South Wales: Focus Publishing Pty Ltd. pp. 103–108. ISBN 1-875359-540.

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