BIG W is an Australian chain of discount department stores, which was founded in regional New South Wales in 1964. The company is a division of Woolworths Group and as at 2019 operated 182 stores, with around 22,000 employees across Australia and Asia. BIG W stocks clothing, health and beauty, garden, pet items, books, DVDs, CDs, some furniture items, snack food and small electrical household appliances.
Woolworths Limited developed the BIG W brand to provide Australian shoppers with a broad range of general merchandise products in a dedicated one-stop-shop. The BIG W chain grew out of Woolworths Limited's original Variety stores, which carried a small range of general merchandise products. The first BIG W department store opened in 1964 at Jesmond, New South Wales. BIG W's name reflects the complementary relationship it has with Woolworths Supermarkets although the W does not stand for Woolworths but instead the initial for warehouse adopted from Woolworths original name of Woolworths bargain basement warehouse. The separation of BIG W and Woolworths supermarkets was largely completed by 1989, although a few Woolworths Variety stores continued to operate into the 90s (such as the one in Rundle Mall, Adelaide).
In 2007, BIG W began trialling optometry services in South Australia and since then, these services have been added to selected stores in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. In May, 2019, BIG W announced the closure of all 41 BIG W Optometry stores, along with 175 job losses. This would not affect the BIG W store that housed the optometry department, and that the last optometry sessions could be held in late July. As of August 2019, all optometry stores have closed, leaving separate stores to be leased or stores within the BIG W store to be used as space for another department.
BIG W were the second company in Australia to use self-checkouts, which were introduced in 2003 on a trial basis in two of Sydney's major stores and began expanding throughout Australia in late 2005.
In August 2014, BIG W launched its first party store at Rouse Hill in New South Wales and its second at the newly refurbished Macquarie Centre at North Ryde in New South Wales. There are currently 183 stores across Australia.