Horsham Coles celebrates centenary

A CROWD gathered in the bakery area of Coles supermarket in Horsham on Wednesday to celebrate the firm's centenary.

Store stalwarts Ian Kell and Norma McDonnell who have worked there for 42.5 and 37 years respectively cut a special cake as colleagues, customers and Horsham Mayor David Grimble cheered them on.

"If I wasn't here now, I wouldn't be here living," Mr Kell said.

The nightfill staffer believes his job prevented him from following his mischievous friends to Melbourne, and into trouble.

"Coles saved my life that's the way I see it," he said.

When he was first employed, the Horsham grocery store was known as S.E. Dickins and was in Firebrace Street.

Horsham's Coles New World supermarket opened in Roberts Avenue in November, 1976.

George James Coles opened the first Coles variety store in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood on April 9, 1914.

It was a family business, launched in partnership with his brothers their father was also a storekeeper.

Back then, the store stocked nothing over two shillings and sixpence.

Horsham Coles manager Mark Mason said the Collingwood shop had four departments: drapery, crockery, ironmongery and fancy goods.

"G.J. Coles was a great supporter of Australian-made goods," he said.

"In April 1930, he launched a Made in Australia campaign to help combat the effects of the Great Depression.

"Employees, customers and suppliers pledged to give preference to Australian goods."

Despite the brand's development over the years, Mr Mason said staff still aspired to the values on which the business was founded quality, service and value.

Cr Grimble said Australians could also thank G.J. Coles for several retailing innovations such as personal sizing. The brand sold clothes in sizes such as 10, 12 and 14.

"It allowed people to buy clothes off the rack," Cr Grimble said.

He said Coles led the way with quality control systems, in-store, self-service cafeterias and rewards programs such as flybuys.

"Coles has delivered an enormous contribution to the economic and social development of the region," Cr Grimble said.

He said the store's placement had heavily influenced the development of the city's central business district.

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