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:
In March 2023, the WHL Group concluded the sale of its entire shareholding in its Australian subsidiary, David Jones. The transaction materially improved the return on capital of the Group by further transforming its balance sheet through the removal of c.R22bn in liabilities relating to the David Jones store portfolio. Importantly, this also enabled the reallocation of capital and management focus towards value-accretive initiatives across other areas of the Group.
Our well-established, Group-wide Good Business Journey has been embedded in all we do for over a decade, and is a key differentiator for the Group. To further stretch us into challenging, yet exciting sustainability territory for the next five to twenty-five years, we recently launched our new sustainability strategy and targets for 2025 and beyond. This includes our Inclusive Justice Initiative, which aims to inspire inclusive growth for all our people, meaningfully impacting the communities in which we operate across the world.