Chain stores | State Library of New South Wales

Chain stores

The chain store concept was imported from the United States. By promoting self-service and simplified merchandise display techniques, it lowered selling costs, which freed up funds for advertising. Increasingly sophisticated marketing campaigns were designed to entice shoppers away from the department stores.

In 1924 Sydney-based Woolworths Ltd took up residence in the Imperial Arcade, opening Woolworths Bargain Basement. Melbourne-based GJ Coles opened its first Sydney store, in Pitt Street, in 1928. Coles’ first slogan was ‘nothing over a bob’, while Woolworth’s captured public attention with their money-back guarantee if customers were not fully satisfied.

Both chains expanded rapidly, building hundreds of variety stores in the suburbs and around the country. By the late 1950s, with the coming of the supermarket, these big variety-store chains had entered the food business.