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Farewell to Safeway

Safeway “The Fresh Food People” are about to be re-badged, as Woolworths takes on a brand new look.

The much-loved Safeway brand in Victoria is to be abolished.

Parent company Woolworths Limited have decided to progressively re-brand all 129 Victorian supermarkets in the coming 12 months. Coinciding with this decision is the announcement that a new Woolworths logo has been developed, but the “Fresh Food People” moniker will remain.

Safeway supermarket illuminated at dusk
The Safeway Supermarket at the Melbourne suburb of Preston at dusk.

Safeway was launched in Melbourne in 1963 when the American chain of the same name bought three locally-owned supermarkets and established Australian Safeway Stores Pty Ltd. Competing locally with rival Woolworths, Safeway slowly expanded into New South Wales and Queensland whilst Woolworths continued to expand in Victoria. In 1985, Safeway Inc. sold all of its Australian operations to Woolworths and the two supermarket chains merged. At the time, Safeway was considered to be a stronger brand and so the decision was made to that all Victorian stores would be named Safeway whilst the New South Wales and Queensland stores became Woolworths. And so it was until now.

Of course this re-naming process is not new to Tasmanians. In a situation reminiscent of the Victorian Safeway saga, Woolworths had been operating separate Roelf Vos and Purity brands (depending on which part of Tasmania they were located) since the two Tasmanian supermarket chains were acquired in the mid-1980’s. All supermarket brands were advertised as “The Fresh Food People” after 1986 and shared a common marketing strategy, which meant that national advertising jingles and campaigns had to be re-worked to fit in with the Roelf Vos and Purity identities. Eventually Woolworths came to the realisation that operating four nearly-identical brands was sheer madness and so in was in 2000 that Roelf Vos and Purity became history.

In the context of that upheaval, it remained a mystery why it was that Safeway was preserved where Roelf Vos and Purity hit the chopping block. I guess we all knew that it was simply a matter of time before Safeway suffered the same fate. Anyone who’s been into Safeway lately would have seen the subtle signs… all the own-brand products have been labelled as “Woolworths” rather than “Safeway” for quite some time.

Old logos for Woolworths, Safeway, Purity and Roelf Vos (left) and the new Woolworths logo (right).

For most, this change is nothing more than a new name and logo. That said, I can’t help but feel a bit of nostalgia for good ol’ Safeway with it’s crazy “Red Spot Specials” (whatever that referred to) and early childhood memories of being dragged up and down its drab aisles. And then there’s that catchy jingo “We’re Safeway the Fresh Food Peeeeee-ple…“.

It’s the end of an era for sure… farewell Safeway.

For more information on the name change, you can read the Official Press Release.



11 responses to “Farewell to Safeway”

On 23 August 2008, isobel wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

An interesting blog.When I heard Safeway was going to be known as Woolworths it made me sad,but as I think further,it really won’t matter as all will be basically the same.! I LIKE the new logo, could not imagine it <but now I have seen it my opinion has changed,I will continue to shop at whatever it is called,and enjoy the experience.

On 24 August 2008, Brian Owens wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

Interesting point of view. I’ll consider changing my mind about this but for now I still don’t see things the same way you do.

On 25 August 2008, Donna wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

Good to read this, Adam.

It’s all about the nostalgia for me. It’s not really about Safeway as a place, but the people and feelings from that time in which weirdly, Safeway was the backdrop.

On 7 September 2008, Pete Jones wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

You’re right on. Couldn’t have said it better myself. -Pete

On 14 September 2008, James wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

The change from Grace Bros to Myer in Sydney for similar reasons happened overnight with barely a blink from locals. A few of people I’ve know who have lived in both Sydney and Melbourne told me that if the same had happened in Melbourne there would have been protests in the streets, and almost definitely speeches in parliament.In Sydney we just went… “ah well it’s got a new name” 🙂

On 30 September 2008, David Brown wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

I live in Perth. We have the two department stores, Myer and DJs in our city like most places now. There was a time though when Perth had many local department stores. Boans, was Perth’s biggest emporium until the mid 1980s. In its prime, it had a 6 storey store in central Murray St (through to Wellington St and the Perth Railway Station)and 11 more suburban and country branches.

It was a rambling old city store….full of character like Myer Bourke St. Founded in 1895, it was a store that sold everything….a food hall at the Murray St entrance where I bought some doughnuts and pies on each visit to town. I was in high school in the 1980s. I remember the cheese counters, the ham, the black and white lino floors. But it also had a pharmacy, cosmetics, clothing, carpets, furniture, electrical, a hardware annexe on Wellington St, liquor, a bargain basement, Toy Town on the 3rd floor (mmm….the Lego Show), the Cafeteria and Licensed Restaurant on the 4th floor where I blubbered after letting go of my balloon Santa gave me as a kid. Aah yes….crinkle cut chips and sauce. Yum what a treat! Still is! (alas where are the crinkle cuts these days???).

There were big high ornate ceilings and pillars.The big thing though was the grand marble staircase with its velvet carpets and orante ballustrading. And there were quirky departments even perched on the landings….like a wig bar I remember!I remember going to the furniture dept with my dad and laughing at rustic plumbing noises one heard when a toilet was being flushed on one of the above floors. I loved riding the esaclators in Boans. They seemed to go on forever as a kid!!! Funny what we have fond memories of.

This store, like Myer, made a fuss out of Christmas. It was very community-minded. It was not about just selling merchandise it gave something to the city. It had its Christmas windows each year with some nursery rhyme as the theme and moving models and lights. The facade on Murray St had snowflake lights fluttering down it each year. Perth was always well lit up for christmas as a kid….big tinsel streamers with lights on them across the streets and that used to shimmer on a summer’s day….very uniquely Perth…..but less so these days! (gosh we are getting so uncreative). There were big tinsel streamers hanging from the ceilings in Boans that would flutter under the coolest airconditioning in Perth. Fabulous on a hot day. Perth gets damn hot sometimes too.

Gosh I remember a coffee shop in there called “The Colony” which sat just above some stairs linking the Wellington and Murray St levels. It had old photos of Boans and Perth on the wall….the whirling orange juice machines!

In 1984, Boans, like so many stores, was the subject of a takeover war. Kevin Parry wanted it first. He owned Parrys Stores. However, this pricked Myer’s interest. I the end the Myer offer won.

Myer was already in Perth operating in a store a few doors up Murray St.

Forrest Place adjoing Boans was being geared up for redevelopment and Boans was to be part of it. Initially, the Murray St part of the store was to be retained and the rest redeveloped. Myer negotiated with Perth City Council, against heritage advice (WA had no heritage laws until 1990….an apalling state of affairs…we lost so much then….if it were today….at least the facades would have remained I’m sure and perhaps the key features might have been reassemebled in the Myer store) and the council agreed the whole store could be demolished and a new Boans store be built.

Boans traded until 1986 as normal. Myer and Boans were run as separate stores. Then the Boans store was closed for redevelopment. I was there on the closing day….very sad….it truly was the end of an era….and something that many in Perth still lament. Like Myer is to Melbourne, Boans was part of the soul of Perth.

But all was not lost. Myer had agreed though to retain the Boans name, like Grace Bros. The new store would be called Boans and the Myer name would disappear from WA Stores. And it did…for a time.

Whilst the redevelopment took place, the Myer City Store became Boans interim store. Emerging from the ruins of the old Boans store was a new department store and specialty stores all adjoing the new Forrest Place civic square. We were told a new era for Boans, including a beaut new food hall.

Then to coincide with the opening of the new store all stores in WA were renamed “Myer”. The phasing out of the Boans name took about 3 weeks to seal. It was justified as a way of saving in advertising.

The Myer store in Perth City is successful. The food hall went about 3 years back though….One of the many bad decsions it would seem Myer has made across the country. Myer links the railway station and the city heart. It as a modern atrium in the middle with the escalators (the escalators were actually rescued from Boans and reassembled in the new Myer store).

But Boans was gone and Perth is a lot less less rich for having lost it. I still have an old Boans shopping bag….and the old articles about its redevelopment. Boans had wonderful wrapping paper with sketch drawings of old Perth landmarks on it.

Boans went along with many other household names in Perth….names like Moore’s (the Carillon Aracde now 1981-82), Aherns(now a DJs 2003), the old GJ Coles store (now Target 1997), Charlie Carters grocery store (Hay and Murray Sts) to name but several.

It is a pity our stores now don’t have personality like these older stores did…..they were something special about our city centres that now are but a memory.

On 6 October 2008, Jason Thompson wrote: Hyperlink chain icon


On 3 January 2009, Deborah Storck wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

Thank you David Brown for remembering those wonderful days when it was a real treat to shop in the city at Boans. I remember seeing it for the first time when I was small, those wooden floors and the ornate open lifts that were operated manually by a man sitting on a stool, anouncing every floor. “First floor ladies wear habberdashery” etc. There was no arconditioning either, but fans everywhere. The woosh of the air pipes that were used to transport notes and cash from the tills to the office upstairs. I even worked there during the school holidays when I was 16. It was incredible, now, sadly those days are gone and many stores like Boans with them. Thanks for the memories.

On 30 November 2010, Aurora (Rorie) Bergieman wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

I think it’s horrible that their changing the name, they should let Victoria have some things different to the rest of Australia I am shocked! I’m going to call it Safeway and tell all my children to call it that and if they don’t, get lost and go to Perth, Sydney or somewhere else!

On 25 December 2010, Mark wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

I went to school with Luke Vos who is the grandson of Roelf Vos.

Roelf Vos (1921-1992) was a wealthy Tasmanian businessman who, amongst other achievements, established a supermarket chain carrying his name initially in Launceston, but later expanded throughout the whole of northern Tasmania. The equivalent in the south of the state was Purity Supermarkets.

Vos initially purchased a corner milk bar and store in Launceston, Tasmania. From this humble beginning he went on to introduce self service shopping to northern Tasmania, and the business grew into a chain of ten supermarkets, employing over 500 people.

In 1982 the supermarket operations were sold to Woolworths. The Vos family retained ownership of the properties, including two shopping centres in the north and north west of Tasmania. Although they retained the Roelf Vos branding for some time, they were eventually rebranded as Woolworths in the early 2000s.

At the time of the final loss of the Roelf Vos name, the stores in Launceston included a CBD store (Wellington Street), as well as Newstead, Kings Meadows, Prospect Vale, Riverside and Newnham. The CBD Wellington Street and Newstead stores are now Coles supermarkets, and the Newnham store has closed and is now a City Mission charity store. Woolworths is currently looking for another store location in the Launceston CBD to include a Big W outlet.

On 3 October 2011, Safe Way wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

it will be safeway for life! i asked my 5 year old cousin whats your favorite shop and he said safeway because they sell toy cars. everyone calls it safeway here and they always will anyway all stores nearby are still called safeway so hopefully they dont change it

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