Big W reveals major twist in brand's 50-year history

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·3-min read

If you’ve only just got your head around the news that the ‘w’ in Big W stands for Woolworths then you might want to sit down because the revelations about the iconic Aussie store just keep on coming.

According to a Big W spokesperson, the name ‘Big W’ quite literally disappeared from storefronts over half a century ago before being ‘resurrected’ several years later.

The first BIG W Discount Store which opened in Tamworth, NSW in 1976. Photo: Big W (supplied).
The first BIG W Discount Store which opened in Tamworth, NSW in 1976. Photo: Big W (supplied).

“In 1970 the BIG W name ceased to be used and the stores were converted to what was known as Woolworths Family Centre,” the spokesperson informs Yahoo Lifestyle.

These Woolworths Family Centres stocked a ‘very large range’ of general merchandise as well as supermarket food and, throughout the ’80s, were ultimately converted into the Woolies stores we are familiar with today.

In the meantime, the BIG W name was ‘resurrected’ in 1976 with the opening of the first ‘BIG W Discount Department Store’ in Tamworth, NSW.

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The 'w' in Big W stands for Woolworths. Photo: Big W (supplied).
The 'w' in Big W stands for Woolworths. Photo: Big W (supplied).

What’s in a name?

The name ‘Big W’ originated in 1964 when the very first Big W opened in Newcastle’s Jesmond Shopping Centre — the first centre built and developed by the Woolworths group.

The original Big W stores were department stores similar to Myer and the now-defunct Grace Bros which reflected Woolworths’ foundation in the ‘general merchandise/variety business’.

Several hundred Variety Stores were still operational in 1964 and boasted a larger turnover than the fledgling supermarkets division making them a mainstay of the company.

“So Big W really was like a big Woolworths (the traditional Variety Stores),” the Big W spokesperson explains.

Big W bombshell

Today there are 182 Big W stores across Australia but there’s still some confusion about the store’s name.

Melbourne TikToker Toby Rozario, for example, was so shocked to discover that the ‘w’ stands for Woolworths that he captured his reaction in a video that’s since gone viral.

A Melbourne TikTokker was shocked to find out what the name really means. Photo: TikTok/tobyrozario.
A Melbourne TikTokker was shocked to find out what the name really means. Photo: TikTok/tobyrozario.

In the clip, Toby reacts in disbelief to a man wearing a Woolworths Metro uniform who makes the claim until a quick Google search reveals the truth.

“What? My life has been a lie!” he gasps.

Fellow TikTok users were in a similar state of surprise following the revelation.

“I have been thinking it was Aussie Walmart,” one admitted.

“I refuse to believe it,” another declared.

One had a cheeky dig at Woolies for the “lack of originality” in choosing the Big W name.

“Wait a minute, does that mean the ‘k’ in Kmart stands for something, too?” wondered another.

Today, Big W employs 18,000 staff throughout Australia, Hong Kong and Bangladesh but unfortunately was forced to close 30 stores in 2019 in order to make the chain viable.

Big W storefront with two customers exiting the store
Do you know what the 'w' in Big W stands for? Photo: Getty Images.

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