The Evolution of Shopping

As you stand in the centre of Castle Towers or a Westfield shopping mall have you ever thought of how we used to shop in days gone by and do you miss those times?

I remember back in the 1950s & early 1960s before we had such shopping centres as we do today. Shops would only be open for half a day on Saturday, never on Sunday (I can feel a song coming on), There was no late night shopping. Stores would close at 5.30pm on weekdays.

Along the main street in a larger suburb would be shops and stores of various descriptions, from milliners (what ever happened to them), menswear, butchers, bakers, dress shops, delicatessens, hardware and a whole host of other retailers. Above the shops would either be store rooms, offices such as accountants or solicitors etc. Often the upper level or rear of a shop may be occupied as a residence.

More often than not the major retailer in the shopping strip would be either a Woolworths or Coles variety store. Supermarkets would not exist in large numbers until the mid to late 1960s. As married women were not allowed to work in many industries at the time they had to resign from their place of employment upon marriage and were often at home. Consequently they would shop throughout the week for meat and groceries. Grocery chains such as Sydney Cash & Carry, Buttle’s, Moran & Cato, Flemings and McIlrath’s dominated the food retailing industry in Sydney, whilst A. J. Bush dominated the butcheries and you would find their stores in the retail strips of many suburbs.

For the important shopping of Christmas, wedding or birthday gifts, Mums and their kids would hop on a train or bus and go to the big stores in the city. Kids would enjoy the travel to to town and a big day would include visits to Anthony Hordern’s, Farmer’s, Grace Brothers, Mark Foy’s or Snow’s of Sydney central. A highlight for many kids would be a visit to a cafeteria in one of the large stores.

When television came to Australia electrical stores became popular and the largest electrical chain stores would have been H. G. Palmer or Eric Anderson’s who had stores in most suburbs, where the masses would go to purchase their television sets, stereograms or radio often on lay-by or hire purchase as cash was not plentiful and there were no such things as credit or debit cards at the time.

In the later 1960s things started to change when companies such as Westfield, Lend Lease and Stocklands started to build shopping centres and Woolworths and Coles acquired most of the grocery chains and built supermarkets around the country. The large shopping centres replaced many of the shopping strips and department stores. Shopping hours were changed to allow stores to open on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Late night trading during the week was made permissible.

But I wonder what does the future hold in the way of shopping. We have started to see the growth of on-line shopping with major retailers having a presence on-line. Delivery to your door from Coles, Woolworths, Amazon and Australia Post etc. Will the masses continue to battle the traffic, fight for a parking spot and go to the shopping centres in the future?

Don’t forget to contribute your memories and also any old photographs that you would like to see published in this magazine’s “as we were” section.


This page is about memories so tell us yours. If you have some great memories, or perhaps you belong to a local community organisation and would like to share your organisation’s history or story with us then feel free to share your memories or experiences by writing to 17 Rose St, Baulkham Hills NSW 2153 or email to [email protected] You can also share memories on any of my Facebook memories groups including Hills District Memories which you will find at
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