The first Coles supermarket – a freestanding suburban supermarket complete with carpark – opened in the Melbourne suburb of North Balwyn in 1960. It was branded as Dickins. By 1973, Coles had supermarkets in every capital city in Australia. Supermarkets, complete with extensive car parks, had begun their unstoppable progress throughout the suburbs.
The opening of the North Balwyn supermarket was not Coles’ first move into food. In 1958, the company had acquired Dickins in Victoria – a chain of 54 mainly self-service grocery stores. This was a move to counter Woolworths’ purchase of the Queensland BCC (Brisbane Cash & Carry) chain the previous year. The first Coles supermarket was opened under the Dickins brand.
Coles subsequently opened Coles Dickins stores in New South Wales and, outbidding Woolworths, acquired Matthews Thompson, the biggest food retailer in NSW with around 250 stores across the state. Expansion into other states followed.
In 1961, many of the company’s food stores were renamed ‘Coles Food Markets’ and in 1962 their first New World supermarket was launched. The move into supermarkets and the subsequent change to New World were driven by the Managing Director, Edgar Coles, whose stated ambition was to stock everything a family might have on their weekly household shopping list.
The first Coles supermarket marked the beginning of a change that would see the Coles name cease to be associated with traditional variety stores and become one of Australia’s largest names in food.