When Coles opened its first New World Supermarket in 1962, above the verandah of the Frankston store was a giant red, white and black rocket. It was more than 10 metres long and weighed over a tonne. The rocket was a replica of one that had started the ‘space race’, launching the first man-made satellite into orbit five years earlier. It was a fitting symbol for a decade that would see mankind take the first steps on the moon.
According to Coles, the space theme was the brainchild of Edgar Coles, the Managing Director and Chairman. After Edgar returned from a trip to the USA in 1957 the company had begun its move into the grocery business, taking over the SE Dickins chain in Victoria and acquiring grocery chains in New South Wales and South Australia. In 1960 Coles’ first freestanding suburban supermarket, complete with car park, opened in the Melbourne suburb of North Balwyn.
But there were even bigger things to come. The futuristic New World Supermarket was food retailing on a giant scale. With almost 2000 square metres of floor space, it had the largest range of groceries in Victoria. In New South Wales, Woolworths also moved into food, opening its first supermarket in Warrawong (a suburb of Wollongong) in 1960, and the American-owned Safeway chain arrived on Coles’ doorstep, first hoisting its brand in Frankston in 1963.