Safeway was a chain of supermarkets in Australia from 1963 to 2017. The supermarkets were initially part of Safeway Inc. but were absorbed by Woolworths Limited (now Woolworths Group) in 1985. On 22 August 2008, Woolworths Limited announced it would discontinue the Safeway name, and former Safeway stores were rebranded to Woolworths or closed. The final Safeway store to be rebranded was Wodonga, occurring on 6 June 2017.
The American company Safeway Inc. entered the Australian grocery market in 1962 with the purchase of three Pratt's Supermart stores in Victoria. J.R.W. "Bill" Pratt purchased his father's supermarket in Frankston in 1946, and he also owned stores in Mornington (acquired from John Fyffe's estate in 1946), and Chelsea (opened in 1953). He became a pioneer of retail strategies and self-service in supermarkets.
Representatives of Safeway Inc. became interested in Pratt's growing business whilst on a trip in Australia, and in 1963 Pratt's three stores were purchased by Safeway Inc. The stores continued to operate as Pratt's Supermart for two years until a copyright dispute was resolved. The first Safeway-branded store appeared in Forest Hill, Victoria in 1964. Pratt continued to work at his stores, and in 1967 became the head of the Australian division of Safeway Inc..
Australian Safeway Pty Ltd, formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of Safeway Inc., reported losses in its first three years due to expansion and purchase of property. The chain expanded to New South Wales in 1971, where the shops were called "Red S" due to a trademark conflict with Saveway which was owned by Woolworths. The first New South Wales store was at Cabramatta, followed by Merrylands and Liverpool.
By 1979, there were 12 Safeway stores in New South Wales and 52 in Victoria.
By 1985 the chain had grown to 126 supermarkets trading under the Safeway banner across Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. The head office was formerly located adjacent to the distribution centre on Wellington Road, Mulgrave, Victoria.
Acquisition by Woolworths
In 1985 Woolworths Limited successfully acquired the Australian subsidiary of Safeway, Inc. In the agreement, Woolworths Limited acquired all of the Safeway stores and the naming rights in exchange for a 19.99% equity interest in Woolworths Limited. The purchase included 126 stores in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Bill Pratt, the chairman and managing director of Australian Safeway Pty Ltd, and Peter Magowan, the chairman and chief executive officer of Safeway Inc., were also appointed to the Woolworths board of directors. The annual profit of Woolworths Limited rose from $8 million to $136 million in two years as they served 10 million customers.
Following the purchase by Woolworths, the Safeway stores in New South Wales and Queensland were renamed as Woolworths Supermarkets. However, the Safeway stores in Victoria retained their name, and Woolworths stores in Victoria were transferred to the Safeway banner (with the exception of the Victorian stores of Mildura, Belgrave and Karingal). The store in the border town of Albury, New South Wales also remained as Safeway. During the 1980s and 1990s the Mildura stores moved from Woolworths to Safeway and back again, and the Karingal Woolworths store became Safeway in the late 1990s. In Victoria, the Safeway brand also followed Woolworths Supermarkets' progression into liquor trading as Safeway Liquor, and into petrol trading as Caltex Safeway.
In 1987, Woolworths and Safeway Supermarkets launched "The Fresh Food People" campaign, adopting a uniform slogan and marketing strategy for both brands.
Rebranding of Safeway to Woolworths
On 22 August 2008, Woolworths Limited announced it would rename all Safeway supermarkets in Victoria to Woolworths in order to unite all of its supermarkets under a common brand. There were 189 Safeway stores in Victoria when the announcement was made, and the process took nearly a decade, from 2008 to 2017.
The rebrand included a new logo and design for stores in all states, created by Hans Hulsbosch. The previous logo, which had been in use for 21 years, was replaced with a green apple peel emblem representing the "W" in Woolworths with the addition of a stylised leaf to suggest fresh produce. The company's slogan, "The Fresh Food People", which is known throughout Australia, was maintained as a part of the new branding.
Woolworths indicated that Safeway supermarkets at Camberwell and Preston would be among the first to be re-branded. However, a newly constructed supermarket at Chadstone Shopping Centre became the first Safeway to be rebranded as Woolworths prior to opening. The entire rebranding process was expected to take approximately five years, ending in early 2013, but several stores were still operating as Safeway past the expected completion period. On 6 June 2017, the final Safeway supermarket in Wodonga was rebranded as Woolworths, ending the Safeway brand after 54 years in Australia.
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