The first Woolworths store opened its doors to the public in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1931. Its founder, Max Sonnenberg, captured the public’s imagination with dynamic store policies that set Woolworths apart from its competitors. Three years later, a second branch opened in Durban, with another two, in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, opening a year later. Since then, Woolworths has consistently built its reputation for superior quality, exciting innovation and excellent value.
In 1994, Woolworths introduced its store card. Woolworths Financial Services, a joint venture between Woolworths South Africa and Barclays Bank, was incorporated in 2000 to provide Woolworths customers with focused financial products and services.
In 1997, WHL acquired a controlling interest in Country Road Group, with the remaining shares acquired in 2014. The Country Road brand was founded in 1974 as a manufacturer and supplier of women’s casual cotton shirts. The brand was re-launched in 2004 and has evolved into a leading lifestyle brand renowned for stylish, high quality apparel, accessories, and homeware.
Country Road Group has subsequently expanded into a house of brands by:
On 1 August 2014, WHL acquired David Jones for A$2.2bn. David Jones opened its first store in Sydney in 1838 with a mission to sell ”the best and most exclusive goods.” There are now more than 40 David Jones stores throughout Australia and New Zealand offering customers the best brands across fashion, beauty, and home. David Jones is not only Australia’s oldest department store but also the oldest department store in the world still trading under its original name.
With effect from 1 September 2017, a new regional Australian corporate and operational structure, Woolworths Australia, was introduced and operates out of its head office in Melbourne, Australia. The Woolworths South Africa division and WHL Group head office remain in Cape Town, South Africa.
In 2017, we celebrated the 10 year anniversary of our Good Business Journey (GBJ) – a first of its kind in South African retail – whereby sustainability became a strategic platform for the business with specific public targets. Over the last 10 years, the GBJ has set new standards across its eight focus areas of transformation, social development, health and wellness, ethical sourcing, sustainable farming, waste, water, and energy. In 2016, the Group updated its GBJ goals through to 2020, including embedding the programme into the Group’s Australian businesses.
The Group now has more than 15 million customers, employs more than 44 000 employees across 14 countries, and trades in more than 1 400 store locations.