1963 Safeway supermarkets arrive in Victoria

The American supermarket company, Safeway, purchased three Pratt’s supermarkets in Victoria in 1963. The first was the successful Pratt’s Supermarket (with rooftop parking) in Frankston, Victoria. These stores continued to trade as Pratt’s, later Safeway Pratt’s, for a number of years. The first Australian supermarket to be branded as Safeway opened in Forest Hill in 1964.

Safeway supermarkets had their origins in two grocery chains in the USA which merged and were incorporated in 1926 as Safeway Inc. The company was listed on the New York stock exchange two years later and in 1929 expanded into Canada. Initially cash and carry businesses, the stores gradually evolved into modern supermarkets.

The chain expanded into the United Kingdom in 1962 and, in the following year, moved into Australia buying a small chain of supermarkets owned by Bill Pratt since 1947. Pratt remained with the organisation, becoming CEO of the Australian operation. The company headquarters was in Victoria and expansion initially focused on that state. For several years after the company launched as Australian Safeway Pty Ltd it reported losses, owing to expansion and the acquisition of properties. It first reported a profit in 1967.

Safeway moved into New South Wales in 1971. In that state, stores were branded “Red S” because of a trademark conflict with the local “Safeways”, a brand owned by Woolworths. The first “Red S” store was at Cabramatta and opened in 1971.  It was followed by stores at Merrylands and Liverpool. By 1979, there were 12 stores in New South Wales and 52 in Victoria. In 1981, Safeway moved into Queensland acquiring the “Jack the Slasher” chain of food stores.

In 1985, by which time the chain had grown to 126 stores, Safeway supermarkets were acquired by Woolworths. Initially,  the Safeway brand was retained in Victoria but stores in other states were rebranded as Woolworths. By 2008 there were 189 Safeway supermarkets in Victoria. In that year, Woolworths took the decision to re-brand all the stores with their own name. The last Safeway supermarket, in Wodonga in northern Victoria, closed its doors in July 2017.

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