Department Stores | State Library of New South Wales

Department stores

By the mid to late 1800s, shopping had become the province of women, and the so-called ‘carriage trade’ – those with enough leisure time to spend it shopping. In turn, this encouraged the concepts of window shopping and browsing.

A new style of shop was emerging as drapery and soft goods stores found it useful to organise their stores into ‘departments’. Bon Marché, the first purpose built department store, opened in Paris in 1852. Others followed in London, New York and Chicago, appearing in Australian capital cities in the 1870s.

Grand department stores (or ‘palace emporiums’) attracted browsers with their vast arrays of merchandise, glamorous displays and amenities. Sydney’s major department stores included
David Jones (1838–present), Farmer & Co. (1840–1960) and now trading as Myer, Anthony Hordern & Sons (1823–1966) and Mark Foy’s (1885–1984).

Occupying extensive sites along the city’s main thoroughfares, these stores became
landmarks in their own right, emulating the style of grand residences and enticing shoppers with
their luxurious in-house attractions and customer services.