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A Dominant Company In Australia

April 9, 2012

Some of the largest companies in Australia are mining firms that are also well-known abroad. Over the years one company has been a dominant player in the local supermarket scene. The company is Woolworths.

While many of the big and successful companies today were established by a single founder or a family, Woolworths began as a corporation from the very start. In fact it actually offered shares to the public which wasn’t fully subscribed. Yet there were five founders who gave the company its start: Percy Christmas, Stanley Chatterton, Cecil Scott Waine, George Creed, and Ernest Williams. These names are not that recognizable today.

The company started its first store in the CBD area of Sydney, Australia and was called Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement on December 1924.  Cheap location in Brisbane was the reason why Woolworths decided to open another store there in 1927. Until that time having a chain of stores was not in the minds of its management and owners.  The strength and relevance of Woolworth was proven because despite of the depression period Woolworths kept expanding, opening a store in nearby New Zealand in 1929. From then on the store chain kept growing.

By 1959 the company already had 300 stores part of this growth was by acquiring another store chain. One of the momentous events in the company’s history was when it was purchased by IEL in 1989 and it was delisted in the stock exchange, 65 years after it was first listed.  In 1993 the company was again offered to the public and relisted in the stock exchange.

Part of the company’s success can be attributed to management’s implementation of Project Refresh in 1999. It aim is to refocus Woolworths business practices and look for better ways to run the company. Over a 10 year cumulative period over $8 billion in savings has been realized.

Today Woolworths is into food & grocery, liquor, petrol, general merchandise, consumer electronics as well as hotels. It employs over 191,000 people.  More than 95 % of its fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, and sea food are sourced in Australia helping the local economy to a significant extent.  The company has more than 420,000 shareholders including 40,000 who are company employees.

It’s a success story of a company that has from the start embraced public shareholder ownership.

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