The first Coles supermarket – a freestanding suburban supermarket complete with carpark – opened in the Melbourne suburb of North Balwyn in 1960. 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 BCC (Brisbane Cash & Carry) chain the previous year. 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.
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 first Coles supermarket had 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.