Woolworths Group (Australia)

Woolworths Group Limited, a major Australian company, has extensive retail interests throughout Australia and New Zealand. It is the largest company in Australia by revenue and the second-largest in New Zealand.[3] Despite taking the Woolworths name when it was founded in Sydney in 1924, Woolworths Group has always been independent of F. W. Woolworth Company based in the United States, the Woolworths Group in the UK, and the South African chain of retail stores, Woolworths Holdings Limited. Its main operations include supermarkets (under the Woolworths brand in Australia and the Countdown brand in New Zealand) and discount department stores under the Big W name in Australia.

Woolworths Group Limited
Woolworths Limited (1924–2017)
Woolworths Group (2017–present)
Founded22 September 1924; 96 years ago (1924-09-22)
FoundersPercy Christmas
Stanley Chatterton
Cecil Scott Waine
George Creed
Ernest Williams
Area served
Australia, New Zealand
Key people
  • Gordon Cairns
  • (chairman)
  • Bradford Banducci
  • (CEO)
RevenueIncrease A$63.67 billion (2020)[1]
Increase A$3.19 billion (2020)
Decrease A$1.602 billion (2020)
Number of employees
Increase 215,000 (2020)
DivisionsSupermarkets (Woolworths, Woolworths Online, Countdown)
General Merchandise (Big W)
Finance (Woolworths Finance, Woolworths Rewards) [2]
SubsidiariesList of Subsidiaries
Woolworths Limited headquarters in the Norwest Business Park

On 25 August 2016, the company announced a loss of $1.235 billion for the 2016 financial year, the biggest loss in the more than 20 years since it has been publicly listed on the ASX, mainly due to more than $2 billion in write-downs of the failed Masters Home Improvement business and losses in the Big W business.[4]

In 2021, Woolworths spun out its alcohol, hotel, and gambling businesses into a new ASX-listed company, Endeavour Group. The new company holds the brands Dan Murphy’s, BWS, ALH, Cellarmasters, and Jimmy Brings.[5]


Woolworths flagship store in the Sydney CBD

Woolworths opened its first store, the Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement, in the old Imperial Arcade Pitt Street, Sydney, where Westfield Sydney now stands, on 5 December 1924. Its nominal capital was just £185,000, and although 85,000 shares were offered to the public, only 81,707 shares were subscribed for by 619 people, including the five founders – Percy Christmas, Stanley Chatterton, Cecil Scott Waine, George Creed and Ernest Williams. One of the foundation investors was Preston Lanchester Gowing, the then chairman of Gowings.[6] The name on the draft prospectus drawn up by Cecil Scott Waine was "Wallworths Bazaar" – a play on the name of F.W. Woolworth, the owner of the Woolworth's chain in the United States and United Kingdom.[7] Moreover, according to Ernest Robert Williams, Percy Christmas dared him to register the name Woolworths instead, which he succeeded in doing after finding out the name was available for use in New South Wales. Accordingly, Woolworths Ltd in Australia had no connection with the F.W. Woolworth Company in the United States or the Woolworths Group of UK, both now defunct. It also has no connection to the extant Woolworths Group in South Africa.

The new Woolworths store was the first variety store in the world to use cash registers that print receipts for customers.[8]

Christmas set up a New Zealand general merchandise operation in Wellington in 1929. Woolworths New Zealand opened its first food store in Auckland in 1956, and supermarkets in 1971. Woolworths New Zealand was sold to the company that is now Lion Nathan in 1979, then sold to Dairy Farm International in 1990, now owned by Progressive Enterprises, a subsidiary of Foodland Associated Limited of Australia. In 2005 Woolworths Limited and Metcash Holdings agreed to purchase a demerged Foodland, and Progressive Enterprises and 23 of Foodland's Action supermarkets came under Woolworths' ownership. This acquisition brought total store numbers in Australia to near 750.

During the late 1920s, the company grew, with a second store in Sydney and stores in Brisbane and Perth. It grew further in the 1930s, despite the depression, until by the end of 1933 it had 23 stores. In 1933 the first store in Melbourne was opened. On 1 April 1936 the company bought eight stores from Edments Ltd and opened its first store in Adelaide. The original Imperial Arcade store was moved to larger premises in Her Majesty's Arcade, a short distance along Pitt Street near the Market Street corner.

World War II slowed the growth of Woolworths and the Australian and United States military used Woolworths' warehouses in Sydney for storage. After the war expansion was rapid and in 1955 Woolworths opened its 200th store, in the Civic Centre in Canberra (since closed). At this point Woolworths was still mainly a variety chain and had not moved into the food sector that uses the "Woolworths" brand today. This move began in 1955 when it opened its first supermarket at Beverly Hills, south-west of Sydney. The company bought the Rockmans chain of women's clothing stores in 1960.[9]

In the 1970s, the company started to open Big W discount department stores and the slow removal of many variety products from the supermarket and variety stores began. This process finished in 1989 when the last of the Woolworths Variety stores was closed (except the one in Rundle Mall) and the "Family Centres" were split into separate Big W and Woolworths supermarket stores. Woolworths acquired the Dick Smith Electronics consumer electronics chain in 1981 and expanded the consumer electronics arm of its business with the purchase of the Tandy chain in Australia from InterTan Inc in 2001. The company sold the Rockmans chain in 2000, and the Dick Smith Electronics chain in 2012.


In 1985, the acquisition of the 126 Safeway stores in eastern Australia made Woolworths the largest food retailer in Australia. Safeway stores were in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and included Food Barns in Queensland and northern New South Wales. The stores were acquired following an agreement whereby Safeway acquired a 20% interest in Woolworths Limited. Woolworths and Safeway supermarkets in Victoria traded under the Safeway brand, and Safeway's Food Barns in Queensland and New South Wales became part of Woolworths.

Around this time, the supermarket chain had run eight small supermarket chains including the Queensland-based Food For Less and the Sydney-based Flemings, both of which survive.

In 1989, Woolworths was acquired by Industrial Equity Limited, which was in turn one-third owned by the Adelaide Steamship Company, David Jones Limited and Tooth & Co.[10] It was a wholly owned subsidiary until 1993, when it was floated in the biggest share sale (at that time) in Australia's history.[10]


In 1996, Woolworths entered the petrol market, initially with wholly owned "Plus Petrol" outlets located in shopping centre parking lots.[11] In 2003, as part of a loyalty program aimed at attracting customers to supermarkets through the lure of four-cent a litre discounts, Woolworths entered into an agreement with Caltex to co-brand some Caltex outlets as Caltex Woolworths. These joint venture outlets are supplied with fuel by Caltex and with groceries by Woolworths, and accept Woolworths cards and discount dockets.

In 1999, Woolworths began a joint venture with the Commonwealth Bank called Woolworths Ezy Banking, but was scaled back by 2006.[citation needed] In 2005, the company reached an agreement with the ANZ Bank to install automated teller machines at Woolworths, Big W and Caltex Woolworths locations.[citation needed] Additionally, by 2008, it had invested in financial services infrastructure and expertise, building a team of 50 staff for this purpose.[12]

In 1997, Woolworths opened its first Metro convenience store, in Sydney, converting their premier multi-level variety store for 32 years to this format with the lower ground floor specialising in a large range of 'prepared meals' to cater for the increasing numbers of city dwellers. Known for its rainbow branding with the slogan "Fine food without the fuss", subsequent stores were opened in Coogee, Boronia Park, West Pennant Hills, Newtown, Waterloo and its flagship Town Hall store in Sydney and Ascot in Brisbane. Currently the "Woolworths Metro" brand is used for smaller format convenience stores in the major cities and towns across Australia. Woolworths expanded into liquor businesses with the acquisition of Dan Murphy's in 1998.[13]


By 2001, the BWS chain had been established.[14] With Queensland licensing laws dictating that retail outlets must be operated by a hotelier, Woolworths moved into the hotel industry in 2005 in a joint venture with experienced hotel operator Bruce Mathieson, purchasing hotelier Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH). Later in 2005 the ALH Group expanded its portfolio to 250 hotels by acquiring the Taverner Hotel Group and the Bruce Mathieson Group. The ALH Group is 25% owned by Bruce Mathieson and 75% owned by Woolworths. Statistics provided during the acquisition of the Taverner group showed that over one third of sales are made up of gaming/poker machine takings.[15] The number of poker machines owned by Woolworths and Bruce Mathieson after ALH acquisitions was 10,722.[16]

In June 2006, the company opened a buying office in Hong Kong to cut out the intermediary in sourcing foreign-produced items.[citation needed] In September 2006, Woolworths announced that it had taken a 10% strategic stake in The Warehouse Group in New Zealand.[17] Also in 2006, it announced a venture with the Tata Group in India to introduce Dick Smiths Electronics stores to that country.[18]

In 2006, Woolworths rolled out new Retalix point of sale systems running on IBM POS hardware with LCD touchscreens throughout all its stores.[19] These self-serve checkouts were initially trialled in Carlingford, NSW.

In August 2007, Woolworths announced that it was planning to launch a general purpose credit card in 2008.[20] It is expected to offer credit cardholders reward vouchers redeemable through its store network.[12] HSBC was subsequently named as its credit card partner.[21] Woolworths subsequently announced that the Woolworths Everyday Money MasterCard would be launched on 26 August 2008 and allows customers to earn shopping cards redeemable at Woolworths group retailers.[22][23] It was suggested Woolworths could earn approximately $20m from credit cards in three years and that it was targeting 100,000 to 150,000 cardholders in the first year.[24]

Into 2008, a Wake Up Woolworths campaign, largely funded by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, was pushing Woolworths to sever its relationship with Asia Pulp & Paper over claims of deforestation of Indonesian rainforests. Asia Pulp & Paper supplies Woolworths' Select Brand tissue products.[25]

During 2009, Woolworths Ltd. and Lowes purchased Danks Ltd.[26] owners of the Home Timber and Hardware brand. They entered joint venture with Lowes, one of North America's largest home improvement chains, to launch a new hardware brand named Masters Home Improvement. The first of these stores was opened to the public in Braybrook, Melbourne, Victoria, on 1 September 2011.[27] Aiming to open 150 stores within the next five years, as of June 2014 there were 49 stores operational with more being constructed and/or planned.[citation needed] The business was not profitable, and in 2015 Masters lost A$227.4 million.[28] On 18 January 2016 Woolworths announced that it intended to "either sell or wind up" Masters hardware and Home Timber and Hardware.[29] Chairman Gordon Cairns said that it would take years to become profitable and that the ongoing losses could not be sustained.[30] On 24 August 2016 it was announced that all Masters stores would close on or before 11 December 2016. It was also announced that Woolworths would sell the Home Timber and Hardware brand to Metcash.[31]

Other venturesEdit

Liquor & GamblingEdit

The Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group, 75% owned by Woolworths,[2] operates over 12,650 poker machines across Australia, making it the largest operator of pokies in Australia in 2012.[32] The poker machines are estimated to raise $1.2 billion in net revenue each year.[32] Michael Luscombe in 2010 told shareholders he has no intention of leaving the poker machines business,[33][34] and the company has lobbied against mandatory precommitment technology.[35][36][37] When mandatory pre-commitment was implemented, the Woolworths owned hotels created a loyalty card scheme to offer incentives to frequent gamblers, giving them free food and drink.[2]

In July 2019, Woolworths announced plans to sell its gambling and liquor interests, including BWS, Cellarmasters, Jimmy Bring's and Dan Murphy's. It said ALH and Endeavour Drinks would potentially be spun-off into a separate company and launched on the stock market in 2020, but Woolworths shareholders would first need to approve the plan at an annual general meeting.[38][39] Having been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Woolworths announced it planned to proceed with the demerger of all liquor and pub related businesses into a spun off Endeavour Group.[40] The Endeavour Group was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange on 24 June 2021.[41][42]

Shopping Centres Australasia Property GroupEdit

In 2012, Woolworths Limited placed 69 shopping centres it owned into a real estate investment trust known as Shopping Centres Australasia Property Group (or SCA Property Group), which listed as a separate entity on the ASX on 26 November 2012.[43] Most of the locations contain a Woolworths Limited owned store as an anchor tenant.[44] The trust derives most of its rental income from Woolworths Limited stores.[45]


In 2019, Woolworths Group launched a stand-alone media business called Cartology to communicate with supplier partners and customers.[46] The company will be managed by Mike Tyquin who has worked in media for over 25 years.[47]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c "Woolworths under fire from anti-poker machine groups for introducing gambling rewards card in pubs". ABC News. 17 September 2015.
  3. ^ NZPA (26 October 2007). "Commission: Red Shed takeover would create a 'pure duopoly'". Business story. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2006. Commerce Commission lawyer Stephen Kos told the court the market essentially consisted of a single acknowledged price leader and other price followers. 'The effect of the merger would be a creation of a pure duopoly.' ... Now Woolworths and Foodstuffs had roughly equal market shares, Kos said.
  4. ^ "Woolies food and petrol business down 40 per cent". www.dailytelegraph.com.au. 25 August 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Endeavour Group". endeavourgroup.com.au. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
  6. ^ "GOW372_Annual(pg1-14)" (PDF). Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  7. ^ "Woolworths is only called 'Woolworths' because of a cheeky dare in 1924". NewsComAu. 27 December 2019. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  8. ^ "How Woolworths Started & Grew" (PDF). perishablepundit.com. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  9. ^ "Woolworths Supermarkets | Woolworth Business Strategy Assignment".
  10. ^ a b "COMPANY NEWS; Stock Issue in Australia". The New York Times. 13 July 1993. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  11. ^ Ruming, Orlander (6 October 2016). "Woolworths petrol goes back to 1996". Daily Liberal. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Retailers take on the banks…again". Australian Financial Review. 30 January 2008. pp. 1, 61.
  13. ^ "Woolies liquors up for market share". Australian Financial Review. 25 August 2000. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Behind Woolies' $10b liquor sale". Australian Financial Review. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  15. ^ Woolworths Limited taverners analyst presentation Archived 4 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Retail Giants Place Side Bet on Pokies", theage.com.au, 28 March 2006.
  17. ^ Mitchell, Sue (3 March 2015). "Woolworths sells The Warehouse stake, abandons NZ expansion plans". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  18. ^ Kruger, Colin (24 October 2011). "Blow for Woolies as Tata ends Indian venture". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  19. ^ "Australia's Woolworths Meets Store Service Strategy with Retalix StoreLine". Internet Retailer. Retrieved 14 October 2007.
  20. ^ "Now it's Woolworths the credit card people". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 August 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  21. ^ "Woolies way ahead at checkout". Melbourne Herald Sun. 27 February 2008. Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  22. ^ "Woolworths launches new credit card". news.com.au. 18 August 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  23. ^ "Woolies MasterCard debut". Financial Informer. 16 August 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  24. ^ "Woolies makes move into credit cards". Australian Financial Review. 19 August 2008. p. 13.
  25. ^ "Woolies under fire over pulp products". The Age, Melbourne. 5 June 2008. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  26. ^ Greenblat, Eli (25 August 2009). "Woolworths moves into hardware with Danks buy". SMH. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  27. ^ http://miy.masters.com.au/about/media/first-masters-store-opens-today-in-braybrook-melbourne
  28. ^ Knight, Elizabeth Knight (11 September 2015). "Masters is a home improvement haemorrhage". The Sydney Morning Herald. Faifax Media. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  29. ^ "Woolworths intends to exit Home Improvement business". www.woolworthslimited.com.au (Press release). Woolworths Limited. 18 January 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2016. Woolworths Limited (Woolworths) today announced that it intends to commence an orderly process to exit its home improvement businesses, Masters Home Improvement and Home Timber & Hardware, ...
  30. ^ "Woolies winds up Masters". Courier Mail. News Corp. 17 January 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  31. ^ "Woolworths Update on Home Improvement Exit – Woolworths Limited". www.woolworthslimited.com.au. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  32. ^ a b "Woolworths' pokies 'target low-earners'". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 September 2012.
  33. ^ "Category". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  34. ^ "The Wilkie pokies walk clause — it's compulsory pre-commitment - Crikey". crikey.com.au.
  35. ^ "Nocookies". The Australian. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  36. ^ "Woolworths gambling giant ALH attacks pokies bet-limit system". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 January 2011.
  37. ^ "Category". Herald Sun. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  38. ^ Letts, Stephen (3 July 2019). "Woolworths to pull the plug on pokies, pubs and alcohol". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  39. ^ Hatch, Patrick (3 July 2019). "Woolworths to offload poker machines, pubs and bottle shops". The Sydney Morning Herald. Nine Entertainment Co. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  40. ^ Windfall for shareholders in Endeavour Drinks demerger Brews News 10 May 2021
  41. ^ Endeavour Group lists on ASX Endeavour Drinks 24 June 2021
  42. ^ Endeavour Drinks Group makes solo debut on ASX Brews News 24 June 2021
  43. ^ "ASX welcomes Shopping Centres Australasia Property Group" (PDF). ASX. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  44. ^ King, Mike (31 October 2012). "Should you buy SCA, Woolworths' property fund?". The Motley Fool. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  45. ^ Cummins, Carolyn (9 August 2017). "Woolworths boosts SCA Property annual results by 73pc". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  46. ^ "Woolworths Launches Stand-Alone Media Business". B&T. 18 March 2019.
  47. ^ McDonnell, Josh. "Mike Tyquin to lead new Woolworths media division". AdNews.

External linksEdit