Everything you need to know about Big W

Katherine Chatfield
·Columnist
·6-min read

When Target recently announced it’s set to close 75 of its stores and convert another 92 to Kmarts, it also put fellow discount store Big W in the spotlight.

Big W has historically played third fiddle to Kmart and Target, and last year it made the decision to close 30 stores in order to make the chain viable — after expecting to make a loss of $80-$100 million in the 2019 financial year.

Big W Australia storefront
Big W Australia has historically played third fiddle to rivals Kmart and Target. Photo: AAP.

With Big W facing many of the same challenges as Target — namely having to compete with the increasingly popular Kmart — it’s easy to assume its days could be numbered. Here, we take a look at the history of Big W, it’s famous sales, and what it offers customers.

How did Big W get its name?

Woolworths originally owned ‘Variety’ stores which carried a small range of general merchandise. They saw a niche in the market for discount items and opened a Big W — W standing for Woolworths — to show customers where the shop had originated from.

When did the first Big W open?

In 1976, the first Big W opened in Tamworth, NSW. By the end of 1978, there were 13 Big W stores across the country. Today there are 182 stores, and Big W employs 18,000 staff throughout Australia, Hong Kong and Bangladesh.

A female customer uses a Big W Self service checkout at Warringah Mall, Sydney, NSW on 8 January 2007.
A customer uses a Big W self-service checkout at Warringah Mall, NSW in 2007. Photo: Getty Images.

Big W was a leader in self-service tills

Big W was the second company in Australia to use self-service tills. They were first introduced in 2003 in two of their busiest Sydney stores before being rolled out across the country in 2005. It worked as a trial for Woolworths stores to introduce them nationwide in 2007.

Big W is running entertainment through the coronavirus lockdown

During the coronavirus pandemic, Big W is running online dance classes with the Wiggles and storytime with well-known authors through their Facebook page.

Zoe Foster Blake took part in the store's online story time program amid COVID-19. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.
Zoe Foster Blake took part in the store's online story time program amid COVID-19. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.

Does Big W do lay-bys?

Yes. You can lay-by purchases for Christmas 2020 and the 2020 Toy Mania sale both instore or online (if you check out using PayPal) of $50 or more, and spread the payment over several weeks. To secure a lay-by, you must pay 10 per cent deposit, (5 per cent for pensioners) and also pay a $5 non-refundable service fee. There is a $12 cancellation fee.

Are any Big W stores open 24 hours?

No. Most stores are open from 9 am to 6 pm with some late-night shopping hours starting to resume as COVID-19 restrictions ease. To check out your local Big W’s opening hours look here.

Big W has become known for its chic homewares. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.
Big W has become known for its chic homewares. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.

Does Big W have a sale section?

Yes, they have several sales a year, including flash sales which pop up every so often. To get advance warnings about upcoming deals, you need to subscribe to the Big W newsletter.

What are Big W’s best sales in 2020?

Big W’s annual toy sale, Toy Mania, will be back this year in June. This year you can expect substantial discounts on brands including Lego, Toy Story and Bluey, as well as trampolines and baby toys. Usually, there are midnight store openings to launch the toy sale, but due to coronavirus this won’t happen in 2020 — instead, the sale will be extended by a week.

There will also be an online-only sale offering discounts that aren’t available in-store, plus an online preview a few days before the sale starts. Big W promises that if you find any item in the toy sale at a lower price anywhere else, they will match it. For more details, sign up to the Big W newsletter.

The annual Toy Mania sale is highly anticipated by kids and parents alike. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.
The annual Toy Mania sale is highly anticipated by kids and parents alike. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.

Can I use my Woolworths Rewards card at Big W?

Yes, you can earn points both online and instore with a Woolworths Rewards card. You’ll need to link it to your Big W account to claim the points online though, which you can do here.

How much is online delivery?

If you spend over $45 on clothing, footwear or fashion accessories, delivery within Australia is free at the moment. If you order Electronic Games, DVD, Blu-ray and Books at the moment, contactless delivery is $3.90. For all other items, expect to pay between $7.90 and $9.90 depending on where you live. Next day and two-day delivery are paused at the moment due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Will Big W let me exchange or return an item without a receipt?

Exchange or return of items is only possible if you have a receipt or other proof of purchase such as a Woolworths Rewards statement. If you have proof of purchase, you have 90 days to refund or exchange an item provided it’s still in its original condition.

Personalised items can’t be exchanged or refunded unless they’re faulty. Products bought online can either be returned via post to the address on the returns leaflet, or in-store.

Due to COVID-19, until further notice the following items can not be refunded if you have simply changed your mind about buying them:

Toilet paper, paper towel and tissues

Soaps, cosmetics, toiletries, feminine hygiene and incontinence, pain relief

Cleaning (anti-bacterial wipes, sprays and cleaners, disposable gloves)

Nappies and baby wipes

Pet Food

Customers can print photos from their mobile devices and order personalised photo gifts such as mugs. Photo: Big W Australia.
Customers can print photos from their mobile devices and order personalised photo gifts such as mugs. Photo: Big W Australia.

Can Big W print photos from my phone?

Yes, Big W can print photos from both iPhones and Android phones. Most Big Ws have a photo printing facility instore. You can also download the BIGW photos app, where you can design and order the following:

Digital Prints & Posters

Canvas Prints & Wall Decor

Photo Books

Home and Kids products

Photo Gifts

Calendars

These can either be delivered to your home or your local Big W store for pick up.

The Big W party shop caters to all your celebratory needs. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.
The Big W party shop caters to all your celebratory needs. Photo: Instagram/bigwaustralia.

Does Big W have a party shop?

Yes, the first party store launched in 2014 and there are now 183 stores across the country. Find out the closest store to you here. Some of their best party themes include Frozen 2, PJ Masks, unicorns and dinosaurs. Most stores also offer a helium balloon inflation service and create custom balloon bouquets.

What happened to Big W optometry stores?

Big W first opened an optometry store in 2007 in South Australia, before opening another 40 in different states. In 2019, they all closed down, and 175 people lost their jobs.

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