Woolworths’ first food store was at Dee Why in Sydney. It was a self-service section at the rear of a Woolworths variety store and sold a limited range of groceries, fresh vegetables, meat and deli items. Checkouts were located mid-way down the store.
Woolworths had first opened in 1924 in Sydney’s Imperial Arcade as a variety store called Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement. The store had no links to the Woolworth chain of five and dime stores in the USA and unashamedly stole the name when the founders realised it had not been registered in Australia.
There was soon a second store and by 1930 Woolworths had 16 stores across New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. The chain continued to expand into other states. By the end of 1933, Woolworths had 23 branches in Australia and 8 in New Zealand. The 300th store was opened in 1959.
The move into food coincided with the trialling of self-service. Following the DeeWhy opening, further food sections were installed in stores in the Sydney suburbs of Burwood, Campsie, Dee Why, Punchbowl and at Granville. The grocery range they carried was limited but included fresh vegetables, delicatessen lines and packaged fresh meat sold out of refrigerated cabinets.
The year after the opening of Woolworths’ first food store the company acquired the 32 BCC (Brisbane Cash & Carry) stores in Queensland, which provided an entry into the food business in that state. In 1960 Woolworths acquired the John Wills supermarket chain in Western Australia and Food Fair and Safeway stores in New South Wales. The first stand-alone Woolworths supermarket opened in Warrawong, New South Wales, in May 1960.