Bigger stores needed as Woolworths expands in St George

The opening of the first Woolworths stores in the St George District in Hurstville and Rockdale in 1929 coincided with the onset of the Great Depression.

Famous for selling quality low priced goods, this was the perfect time for expansion for the company with the two stores being the 5th and 6th Woolworths stores to open in NSW.

Both stores flourished and relocated to larger premises twice to cope with booming sales.

An expanded Hurstville store re-opened on Forest Road in 1956 opposite the railway station complete with an arcade running under the store.

The Rockdale store re-opened in 1956 in its new expanded location on the corner of Bay Street and the Princes Highway next to Rockdale Station.

Both opened with great fanfare. The expanded Hurstville store became one of the busiest and most successful Woolworths suburban Variety Stores for the next 20 years.

Continued expansion in the 1950s saw the opening of additional stores in Penshurst, Padstow and Revesby, with the Beverley Hills store opening in 1955 as the first Woolworths store to ever operate with checkouts.

During the 1960s, together with acquisitions, rapid expansion continued. Businesses operating in the St George area acquired by Woolworths were Flemings, McIlraths, Chic Salon and Ashley's.

The Bexley North store is the oldest existing store in its original location.

Opening as a Woolworths Food Fair store in 1961, the store re-branded to a Flemings in 1968 and eventually refurbishing and opening as a Woolworths Metro store in 2016, all on the same site.

Since 1929, Woolworths has operated across 73 different sites in the St George district with 19 different brands including Big W, Flemings, Dick Smith and Dan Murphys.

Photos of the early St George district stores are among 75,000 images that are preserved along with other historic retail memorabilia in the Woolworths Heritage Centre in north-western Sydney.

The Woolworths Heritage Centre is open every Wednesday at the Woolworths Support Office in Bella Vista. Members of the public need to book in advance.

  • Stephen Ward is the manager of the Woolworths Heritage Centre.