Chapter 11: The Case for Supermarkets: The Australian Experience
PERIODS OF CHANGE The central fact about the history of grocery retailing in developed countries is that the trade has constantly striven to provide shoppers with more choice. It has succeeded abundantly in doing so. The number of items offered to the Australian consumer has grown from about 400 soon after the Second World War to 40 000 or more now, a rise of over 100 fold. Although this chapter will recount the stages of the increase, the magnitude of the change virtually speaks for itself. Add in the calculation that the price of a standard basket of groceries has been reduced by one-quarter over the past 25 years and vast gains for the consumer are utterly undeniable. The opening section of this history describes a number of landmark changes in Australia over the period since 1914. The continual evolution of supply and demand is traced from the days of hawkers and small corner stores to the present, when it is scarcely fanciful to describe the newest supermarkets as Aladdin’s caves. The early history sets the scene for sections on developments since the Second World War. The story is carried to the brink of the major change now expected in direct selling as a result of widespread public use of the Internet. Specific evidence is drawn from the records of Coles Myer, a company formed from the two long-established ones whose names it incorporates and now one of the largest supermarket chains. The retail trade has accommodated and even anticipated...
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