The idea of self-service in a grocery store is attributed to Clarence Saunders of Memphis, Tennessee, who opened his first Piggly Wiggly store in 1916. Although Sydney department store Grace Brothers experimented with the idea in their basement grocery section as early as 1921, the first stand-alone self service stores appeared two years later. Farr’s Market in Newcastle opened in November, but Brisbane Cash and Carry got in first – it was certainly open by May – so can probably claim to be the first Australian self-service grocery store.
In 1929, the Brisbane Courier ran the following article. Who says the “advertorial” is a new idea?
BRISBANE CASH AND CARRY.
Reading more like a fairy tale than an actual happening in Brisbane, the story of the rise of the Brisbane Cash and Carry Self Service Grocery Stores is a remarkable example of the success which can be achieved when a real public service is given. Commencing in a small store in Ann-street, Valley, in 1922, Mr. C. Fraser had only himself and a boy.
By careful attention to business and willing service this modest grocery store soon had regular patronage of about 450 customers weekly. From a close and careful study of his business Mr. Fraser conceived the idea of a self-service grocer store, and the following year opened the original and exclusive self-service cash and carry grocery store in Queen Street.
The idea was an instant success and the public appreciation of the venture was marked by such generous support that the succeeding history of the Brisbane Cash and Carry Stores makes romantic reading. In 1925 the Ann street store in the Valley could no longer cope with the increase of trade so larger premises were secured in Brunswick-street, Valley.
The following year (1926) Mr. Fraser brought Mr. Park (at that time sales manager for Brabant and Co.) into partnership with him and the George-street store was opened. A year later the Valley store had again outgrown its limited space and still larger premises were secured-opposite T. C. Beirne and Company. Last year saw the opening of two stores in South Brisbane—Melbourne-street and Fiveways and the present year witnesses the apex of achievement in the Queen-street premises which open to-morrow.
This store will be the largest and most modern self-service store in Queensland and will be fitted up in the most up-to- date manner. There will be a special provisions counter where all smallgoods, will be served direct from a special cooled glass room. There will be a special confectionery counter which will carry all the higher quality confectionery at the lowest possible prices. The grocers section will contain over 1000ft of display shelves, which will be stocked with quality food-stuffs from all over the world.
An innovation of interest is the new B.C.C. uniform. This will be worn by all employees of the store and is to be blue with white collars.
The firm points out that the majority of the original customers of the Ann-street store in 1922 are still regular customers at the Valley branch of the B.C.C. From a staff of one man and one boy the business has grown to such an extent that the B.C.C. now employs 45 persons, and the firm emphasis that the store is proving its worth to the public by the fact that over a million and a quarter customers now pass through the stores each year.
The firm adds: “The trading success of the Brisbane Cash and Carry Stores is due to the high quality and freshness of their stocks and to the fact that the middleman’s profit is eliminated and passed on to purchasers in the form of extremely low prices. This is only possible by large resources and the ability to buy direct from manufacturers and the source of supply of various products. These matters have received great attention from the partners and the public are thus assured of the continuance of the B.C.C. to foremost quality at lowest prices.
The third factor in the success of the B.C.C. is the fact that they absolutely guarantee to refund the purchase price in full on any article which is bought at their stores if the customer desires. On another page the Brisbane Cash and Carry Grocery Stores announce the opening of their new Queen-street premises and are offering special bargains to mark the event.
Brisbane Cash and Carry was one of the anchor stores in Australia’s first shopping mall – Chermside Drive-In Shopping Centre – which opened in 1957. The following year, the 32 BCC stores were acquired by Woolworths and formed the basis of its entry into the grocery market in Queensland.