Coles Supermarkets – Wikipedia

Australian supermarket chain

Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Coles, is an Australian supermarket, retail and consumer services chain, headquartered in Melbourne as part of the Coles Group.

Founded in 1914 in Collingwood by George Coles, Coles operates 807[3] supermarkets throughout Australia, including several now re-branded Bi-Lo Supermarkets. Coles has over 100,000 employees[4][5] and accounts for around 27 per cent of the Australian market.[6] Coles’ large head office site in Melbourne’s inner south-east has 4,000 employees of the workforce located inside.

Coles Online is the company’s online shopping (‘click & collect’ and home delivery) service.

Between 1986 and 2006, Coles Supermarkets was a brand of Coles Myer Limited, later Coles Group Limited, prior to Wesfarmers purchasing Coles Group in 2007. It became a subsidiary of Coles Group again after Wesfarmers spun-off the business in November 2018.[7]

In 2021, Coles changed its slogan to “Value the Australian way”.


George James (G. J.) Coles learned the retail trade working for his father’s ‘Coles Store’ business from 1910 to 1913. (The store continued operating as “The Original Coles” at Wilmot, Tasmania until it was destroyed by a fire on 24 January 2014.[8]) Coles itself was founded when G. J. Coles opened the ‘Coles Variety Store’ on 9 April 1914 on Smith Street in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. Further expansion occurred and Coles’ interest in food retailing was spurred in 1958 when it acquired 54 John Connell Dickins grocery stores. It then acquired the Beilby’s chain in South Australia in 1959 and 265 Matthews Thompson grocery stores in New South Wales in 1960.[9]

In 1960, the first supermarket (trading under the Dickins name) was opened in the Melbourne suburb of Balwyn North, at the corner of Burke and Doncaster Roads where a modernised version continues to operate.[10] By 1973, Coles had established stores in all Australian capital cities. From 1962, its supermarkets were branded Coles New World with accompanying Space Age-themed imagery using rocket models.[11] In 1991, the stores were rebranded Coles Supermarkets and from 1998, simply as Coles.

In 2004, the liquor division office (“Coles Liquor Group”), was moved from Chullora in Sydney to the company head office in Hawthorn East, Melbourne. With Coles Myer CEO John Fletcher citing the move for better efficiency between the food and liquor departments. It also resulted in Craig Watkins (35-year veteran and director of Coles Liquor) retiring from the company.[12]

The fresh produce department of a Coles supermarket.

From mid 2006, many BI-LO supermarkets were badged as Coles Supermarkets. Newmart supermarkets, under which BI-LO traded in Western Australia, were badged as Coles Supermarkets in 2002–2003.
Newmart stores co-located with Coles in the same area or shopping centre were sold to Foodland and re branded as the now-defunct Action Supermarkets chain. The conversion program was put on hold at Easter 2007.[13] On 2 July 2007, Western Australian based company Wesfarmers agreed to purchase Coles Group Limited for A$22 billion. The purchase was completed in early 2008.[14]

In August 2007, as Wesfarmers foreshadowed its plans for the restructuring of Coles Group following its anticipated takeover, it stated that one of three planned divisions would comprise supermarkets, liquor and convenience stores.[15]

From 2008 to 2014, Coles was run by UK retailer Ian McLeod.[16]

In February 2011, Coles acquired National Australia Bank’s 50 per cent interest in Australia’s largest loyalty program flybuys, giving it 100% ownership.[17]

In September 2011, Coles commenced stocking private-label clothing in their stores with several stores receiving refits to accommodate the range.[18]

In 2018 Wesfarmers announced its intention to demerge the Coles business, seeking to retain only a 20% interest going forward.[19]

In 2018, Steven Cain was appointed as CEO of the Coles Supermarket brand as part of the demerger of Coles from Wesfarmers.

Advertising and branding[edit]

A Coles store at a shopping centre in Hawthorn, Victoria

Coles’ original slogan was “nothing over 2/6”, when it was primarily operating variety stores. The slogan “You’ll find the best value is at Coles New World” was used in the 1980s. The red/orange orb was used from 1991 to 2005, although store signs continued to use the orb up until the early 2010s. “Serving you better” was used as a slogan from 1998 to 2003, replaced by “save everyday”, endorsed by actress Lisa McCune. A circled tick was used as a logo device from 2003 to 2007, replacing the orb as a primary device in 2005.[citation needed] “Save everyday” was later changed to the grammatically-correct “save every day”.[citation needed]

In 2007, the slogan and circle tick were discontinued with simply the Coles name used in preparation for a new red ball logo to match proposed Coles Group livery, which was shelved later in the year as the business was sold. A number of tag lines were employed in the next few years: “Something better every day”, “Proudly Australian since 1914” (introduced with its TV sponsorship of the 2008 Summer Olympics),[20] “Cutting the cost of your shopping”, “Quality food costs less at Coles” and “It all counts”.[21] Its current slogan is “Value the Australian way”.[22]

In the 1960s, Coles sponsored a general knowledge quiz show, Coles £3000 Question (later Coles $6000 Question and Coles $7000 Question) which aired on Channel 7.[11]

In 2010, Coles launched a new sub-slogan, “Down Down, Prices Are Down”, featuring a large red cartoon hand pointing downwards to symbolise the chain’s low price policy. The slogan incorporates the tune of “Down Down”, a 1975 hit by British rockers Status Quo.[23]
In 2011, the campaign was revised to the fit the tune of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown”.[24] but reverted to “Down Down” later in the year.
In 2012, it used Status Quo, which originally recorded the song in 1975, singing and speaking in the newest ad in the series. In February 2016, Coles updated the “Down Down” campaign again, to the tune of That’s Amore (“it’s a Down Down”).
In May 2017 the “Down Down” campaign was again refreshed with Australian Idol and reality TV contestant Casey Donovan with a new disco version of the advertisement.[25] This was ultimately dropped in March 2018, with Coles commercials (mostly on its in-store radio known as Coles Radio) using Best of My Love by The Emotions, a hit disco song from 1977, instead.[26]

Coles Radio is the brand name for the in-store radio station heard across all Coles’ supermarkets. It is owned and operated in partnership with broadcaster NOVA Entertainment and adopts a hot adult contemporary format, featuring a playlist consisting of pop hits from the 80s, 90s and current hits. The station is also available outside stores via Coles’ website, and on DAB+ digital radio (making it accessible in many newer car models).

Internet retailing[edit]

Accusations of anti-competitive practices[edit]

Coles has been accused by suppliers of using heavy-handed tactics when dealing with its suppliers.[27] A 2004 investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission did not result in any action being brought against Coles and Woolworths. A 2012 investigation in which suppliers were offered anonymity is believed to have uncovered unethical practices.[28] In 2013, the ACCC was investigating both Coles and Woolworths over accusations that they used improper market practices to force down prices from suppliers.[28]


A 2014 Federal Court of Australia case ruled that Coles “threatened harm to suppliers if they didn’t meet their demands,” and ordered the chain to pay $10 million in penalties.[29]

In 2015, the Federal Court of Australia fined Coles $2.5 million for making misleading claims in relation to the sale of its par-baked bread products.[30]

In 2021, it was alleged that Coles had underpaid more than 7,500 workers between January 2017 and March 2020, by a collective sum of up to $115 million.[31]

Notable promotions[edit]

A Coles Express petrol station
  • 4-cents-per-litre fuel offer: When a customer spends $30 or more in a single transaction at a Coles, BI-LO, Pick’n’Pay or Liquorland, they receive a four-cent discount coupon on their receipt for use at Coles Express service stations. This practice has been criticised by competition law experts who argue that people pay higher petrol and grocery prices to fund these discounts.[32]
  • Shoppers can collect flybuys loyalty program points at Coles Group businesses.
  • Between 1991 and 1993, Coles Supermarkets ran a promotion in conjunction with Apple Inc. and 12 major suppliers entitled “Apples for Students”, where students collected grocery dockets and returned them to their participating school, and once a certain value had been reached the school would be provided with a free Macintosh computer. Seventy per cent of Australia’s schools and kindergartens participated and gained more than 25,000 computers, equipment and software worth $13.6 million.[33]
  • In 2010, Coles Supermarkets ran a similar program called “Sports for Schools” which customers collected coupons to hand in to their school in exchange for sports equipment. The program was run again in 2011, 2012, 2018[34]2020[35]
  • In 2018, Coles ran a collectibles promotion called Little Shop featuring mini-sized grocery items. Competitor Woolworths stated the success of the promotion led to reduced customer visits to its stores.[36] Due to the success of the campaign, Coles re-invigorated the promotion with the collectables returning for the Christmas period.[37]
  • In March 2021, Coles pledged to have all supermarkets powered by renewable energy by 2025, and to deliver zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as part of the Together To Zero program.[38][39]

Private label brands[edit]

Coles Smart Buy table salt

In the past Coles had a variety of private labels, most notably Farmland and Embassy. Currently, Coles has eight levels of generic or private label brands, although they plan to consolidate these into the basic Coles brand.[40] They also have a private clothing brand.

  • Coles: A mid-price line, replacing the ‘You’ll love Coles’ brand. Designed to match established branded products.
  • Coles Smart Buy: A budget label covering household essentials and groceries. Easily recognisable due to its plain white and red accented packaging. Replaced the previous ‘Savings’ and ‘Farmland’ brands.
  • Coles Finest: A premium brand, with a small range of gourmet foods. Promoted as of greater quality than many well-known branded products and often more expensive.
  • Coles Green Choice: A range of household products which claim to be environmentally responsible, with a donation being made to Clean Up Australia with every one of its products sold.
  • Coles Organic: A range of products grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, or herbicides, approved by official certified organisations.
  • Coles Simply Less: A range of products designed for health conscious customers. Usually have lower fat, salt, or sugar levels than traditional products or are designed as a health products such as the Simply Less range of meal replacement shakes.
  • Coles Simply Gluten Free: A range of around 40 products designed for customers who are gluten intolerant or on a gluten free diet for other reasons.[41]
  • Mix Clothing: A range of budget essential clothing; mostly women’s and children’s clothing. Not available in all stores and being phased out nationally.[42]
  • Coles Ultra: A range of higher-end cleaning products above the smart buy range.

Number of stores in Australia[edit]

According to the official website, Coles has over 800 stores across Australia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “2019 Full Year Results” (PDF). Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  2. ^ “2011 Full Year Results” (PDF). Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  3. ^ “Coles creates 115 jobs at its milestone 800th supermarket”. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  4. ^ “Company Information”. Coles Supermarkets. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  5. ^ “Red spot special: Coles up for sale”. Sydney Morning Herald. 24 February 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  6. ^ “Looking beyond the panic-buying, Australia’s big supermarket story is Aldi’s growing market share”. Roy Morgan. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  7. ^ Chau, David (21 November 2018). “Coles debuts with $18b market value; Australian shares tumble after global sell-off”. ABC News. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  8. ^ “North-West store gutted in blaze”. The Examiner newspaper. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  9. ^ “Coles Myer Limited”. Encyclopedia of Business. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  10. ^ “1960 First Coles supermarket”. Australian Food Timeline. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  11. ^ a b “Coles”. eMelbourne – The Encyclopaedia of Melbourne Online. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  12. ^ “Coles Myer re-locate liquor group office to Melbourne”. The Age. 10 March 2004. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  13. ^ “Coles Supermarket Sales Drop”. Sydney Morning Herald. 17 May 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2007.
  14. ^ “Coles sold for $22 billion”. Herald Sun, Melbourne. 2 July 2007. Archived from the original on 6 July 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2007.
  15. ^ “Wesfarmers plans Coles investment, restructuring”. Reuters. 16 August 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
  16. ^ Greenblat, Eli (18 February 2014). “Coles boss Ian McLeod steps down”. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  17. ^ “Coles buys out FlyBuys”. Inside Retailing. 16 February 2011. Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  18. ^ Collier, Karen (25 August 2011). “Coles fashion line revealed”. Herald Sun. Melbourne. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  19. ^ “Coles is being spun off for what could be a billion less than it was bought for”. 16 March 2018.
  20. ^ Downes, Stephen (12 August 2008). “Coles and Red Rooster lead Olympics cash in”. Crikey. Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  21. ^ “Plan to replace axed shopping site”. The Australian. 29 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  22. ^ “Value the Australian way | Coles”. Archived from the original on 23 September 2021. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  23. ^ “Woolworths sees shake-up in discretionary retail”. Business Spectator. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  24. ^ Collier, Karen (6 July 2011). “Coles’ annoying ‘Down Down’ jingle here to stay”. Herald-Sun. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  25. ^ “Casey Donovan latest celeb to front Coles’ Down Down campaign – Mumbrella”. 3 May 2017.
  26. ^ Dawson, Abigail (6 March 2018). “Coles moves strategy away from ‘Down, down’ to ‘Good things’ platform”. Mumbrella. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  27. ^ Commission, Australian Competition and Consumer (5 May 2014). “ACCC takes action against Coles for alleged unconscionable conduct towards its suppliers”. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  28. ^ a b Greenblat, Eli. “ACCC to investigate Coles and Woolies”. SMH. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  29. ^ “Coles ordered to pay $11.2 million in penalties, legal fees for mistreating suppliers”. ABC News.
  30. ^ “BarNet Jade – Find recent Australian legal decisions, judgments, case summaries for legal professionals (Judgments And Decisions Enhanced)”.
  31. ^ “Coles accused of underpaying more than 7,500 workers by $115m | Coles”. The Guardian.
  32. ^ Janda, Michael (16 October 2009). “Coles withdraws petrol discount at ACCC’s behest”. ABC news. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  33. ^ Noric Dilanchian (24 June 2002). “Developing and Protecting Brands and Trade Marks in Globalising Markets”. Intellectual Property: Protection, Enforcement & Commercialisation 4th Annual National Conference, IES Conferences. Archived from the original on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2007.
  34. ^ “Sports For Schools”., and
  35. ^ “Coles Supermarkets”. August 2011. Archived from the original on 7 September 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  36. ^ “Woolworths blames plastic bag ban and Coles’ Little Shop for drop in sales”. Yahoo!7 news. 20 August 2018. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  37. ^ “Leaked email appears to reveal a limited Christmas edition”. NewsComAu. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  38. ^ Parkes-Hupton, Heath (14 October 2021). “Coles making major change today”. — Australia’s leading news site. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  39. ^ Cockburn, Gerard (18 March 2021). “Supermarket giant’s bold new promise”. — Australia’s leading news site. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  40. ^ “Why home brands are the way of the future”. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  41. ^ “Gluten Free”. Coles Supermarkets. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  42. ^ “Mix Apparel”. Coles Supermarkets. Retrieved 21 January 2013.

External links[edit]