BI-LO (Australia) - History


BI-LO was established by John and David Weeks in Adelaide in 1979. The first stores opened at Stirling and Aldgate in South Australia's Adelaide Hills region after being converted from hardware outlets, followed by the acquisition of a third store at Murray Bridge. Coles Myer cited that by 1979, BI-LO was South Australia's cheapest grocer.

By 1987, BI-LO was operating 28 supermarkets in South Australia and generating one third of metropolitan Adelaide’s supermarket sales, when it was acquired by Coles Myer, which also purchased the 34-store Shoeys discount supermarket chain in New South Wales (subsequently renamed as BI-LO). BI-LO would later expand into Queensland and Victoria.

In December 1994, BI-LO opened its first Mega Frrresh store at Greenacres, SA, in response to its then chief competitor Franklins "Big Fresh" concept. In 1996, BI-LO acquired six Newmart supermarkets in Western Australia although the Newmart name was retained due to its strong brand identification. In 1998, BI-LO purchased three Northern Territory supermarkets in Darwin and Alice Springs. In 1999, the slogan "Extra Value For You" was launched.

BI-LO/Newmart opened nine new stores and completed 23 refurbishments in 2000, and opened 26 more stores and completed 11 refurbishments in 2001. The last Newmart stores in Western Australia to open before the chain was absorbed into Coles Supermarkets were at Garden City, Booragoon (October 2000) and Ocean Keys, Clarkson (July 2001). The Garden City store became an Action Supermarket, then later became a Woolworths Supermarket. The Ocean Keys store became a Coles Supermarket.

In 2002, BI-LO acquired and converted 15 Franklins sites, in New South Wales (Warilla Grove, Campbelltown - now Coles, Hillsdale - closed 2003, Mount Druitt - closed 2005, Shellharbour, Lavington, Thirroul), Queensland (Kawana, Capalaba - Closed 2007 reopened as Coles 2008, Hope Island, Loganholme), Victoria (Southland, Waverley Gardens - closed 2004, Lalor, Broadmeadows) and South Australia (Unley - closed 2005). Around 820 former Franklins employees were offered positions at BI-LO. BI-LO also opened 7 stores and a Bi-Lo Discount Petrol site at Narrandera, New South Wales. In August of that year, all Newmart Supermarkets operated by BI-LO in Western Australia were transferred to the management of Coles Supermarkets. In 2004, BI-LO relaunched with the slogan "Why Pay More".

In July 2006 Coles Myer CEO John Fletcher announced a strategy to progressively rebrand BI-LO, Kmart, First Choice Liquor, Liquorland and Theo's under the Coles banner. Re-branding BI-LO stores began later in 2006 and had been expected to be completed by mid 2007. A small number of stores were to be re-branded Coles Discount Grocery where a Coles Supermarket already exists in the same complex (for example, at Westfield Fountain Gate. Some stores, such as BI-LO Arkaba in South Australia, were originally Coles Supermarkets before being converted to BI-LO in the late 1990s.

Coles Group announced in March 2007 it was "pausing" the conversion of BI-LO stores to Coles, following the poor results of the 129 stores converted thus far.

In October 2008, Coles stated it was planning to create a discount supermarket chain to replace the remaining BI-LO stores. In 2009, Coles stated it would sell eight of the remaining BI-LO stores to rival chain Foodworks. A few BI-LO stores have recently been closed, or are closing soon, due to poor performance and small store size, these stores include Armidale and Merimbula.

At its peak BI-LO had more than 180 stores and employed 13,600 people. By March 2009, only 48 stores remained, largely in NSW and Queensland.

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