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Domestic conveniences - shopping

Staged to Sell

The age of convenience

The late 20th century was an age of convenience. Shopping for groceries was revolutionized by the domestic refrigerator and growing vehicle ownership. Self-service supermarkets flourished and the availability of a variety of non-perishables and frozen food essentials, reduced shopping trips to once a week or less. Stevenson, Kinder & Scott were commissioned to photograph groceries for 'junk-mail' catalogues and other print advertisements. The photographs provide a unique insight into the products available and advertised to Western Australians from the late 1960s to the 1980s. The photographs also document the rise of super-markets and the establishment of shopping centres.

Pantry essentials

Just 57cents for eggs, 9cents for a can of soft-drink, and 33cents for a jar of coffee! These eclectic arrangements of groceries were most likely taken for an advertising catalogue or grocery store 'specials' boards. Between the 1960s and 1970s products sold and advertised by manufacturers were most likely to be personal care item, food, drink, household goods, and appliances.

Groceries, 1971, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 342244PD, 342245PD

Nestle, Maxwell House, Surf, Golden Circle, Kraft, Coca Cola, Fanta: many of these brands continue to be household names. Photographs of products in advertising material functioned as visual shopping lists to create brand awareness; familiar products would be recognised instantly by the shopper.

Non-perishable foods like tinned pineapple (27cents in the photograph) soared in popularity during the 1970s, with one 1977 survey concluding that 68% of households had tinned pineapple in their fridge. Most of these products were marketed directly to women. The 'Mortein Pressure pack aerosol insecticide', for example, was promoted to mothers with photographs of sleeping babies and the line, 'no words can describe the reassurance a mother feels when she knows her baby is safe, guarded from disease carrying flies by Mortein'. (Mortein Adevertisement published in the Australian's Women's Weekly, 2 December 1970) .

Shopping for the whole family

Groceries, eggs, Sunnywest butter, Kraft cheese, Sunnywest ice cream, Velvet soap, Fanta, Coke, Tom Piper tomato sauce, Sunlight dishwashing liquid, 1973, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, 359921PD

Interior of Woolworths supermarket, La Plaza Bentley shopping centre, February 1970, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 331116PD

Everyday drama

Stevenson, Kinder & Scott were masters of dramatic staging of ordinary everyday products. Staging decisions were especially important in getting products noticed in mostly small catalogue reproductions.

A 6 litre tub of Peters vanilla icecream, 31 August 1977, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 362339PD

Studio lighting in this photograph of a Peter's ice cream tub illuminates the vanilla flavour. The tub casts a shadow, emphasing its volume - 6 litres. The lid is carefully propped angled towards the camera to show the brand. These staging decisions make the ice cream appear more desirable; the product is the 'hero' of the shot.

Polony on a glass

Stevenson, Kinder & Scott commonly improvised using everyday items like glassware and plates to stage product photographs in the studio.

Watsonia beef polony, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 343046PD
Watsonia ham salami, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 343049D

Plastic fantastic

For this photograph the plastic wrap covering the ham has been sliced at the front of the meat to capture its moist and fresh appearance and to avoid reflection. The label was affixed directly to the ham so that both the brand and its freshness are visible. At the beginning of the 1960s, clear cellophane food wraps were replaced by synthetic PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Supermarkets preferred PVC because of its superior capacity to preserve a fresh appearance.

Globe Adelphi ham made in Western Australia, 17 October 1977, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 328527PD
Watsonia leg ham made in Western Australia, 17 October 1977, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, 328533PD
Hamburger mince $1.18

Taken for a Woolworths catalogue, the sharpness of this photograph makes the smallest details visible. Notice the subtle presence of finger prints on the mince.

Hamburger mince packaged for Woolworths, 99c/kilo, 11 August 1976, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 362003PD

'Carnation your coffee'

Three tins of evaporated milk, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 343040PD, 343041PD, 343042PD

Whipped into cream, poured into cake mix, or stirred into coffee; evaporated milk was a pantry staple throughout the 1970s. Marketed as the 'modern milkman', evaporated milk was a posited as convenient and longer life alternative to fresh milk. The bear and carnation brands were also promoted specifically for infant feeding.

creamy Carnation milk doubles your coffee enjoyment

- 1930s slogan for Carnation brand evaporated milk

Granular coffee imports to Australia began in 1930 and local production of Nestle's Nescafe brand occurred in Victoria from 1947. Imports from Moccona and Maxwell House followed from the 1960s.

Plaistowe confectionery, October 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 326919PD

Special treats

By the 1970s, colour advertising was also on the rise. The popular chewy licorice flavored toffee bar, Plaistowe's 'Choo Choo Bar' was originally made by the Western Australian company in the 1950s. Plaistowe Confectionery were early leaders in local confectionery production, having established their West Perth factory in 1895.

Innovative appliances

Domestic freezers and microwaves dramatically changed the way Australians cooked and shopped. Refrigerator sales increased after World War II and by 1964, it was estimated that 94% of Australian households owned a refrigerator. Households without refrigerators relied on iceboxes or ice-chests to keep perishable foods fresh. Microwave oven adoption was slower. Around half of Australian households were equipped with microwaves by 1989.

6PR representative presenting an Astor Freezemaster to a woman, 1966, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 331349PD

Freshly frozen peas

Frozen food consumption accelerated with household freezers. Peas were an instant success and most frozen goods were advertised as "fresh". These products offered convenience, reducing both time spent in the kitchen and the frequency of grocery shopping trips. Peters, pictured here, produced frozen vegetables and poultry in addition to dairy products.

Studio photograph of assorted groceries, 1969, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 342958PD

From the factory...

Packaging frozen peas at Hunts Canning Co., Albany, December 1970, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 331153PD

Hunts Cannery were a Western Australian business with factories in Albany, Esperance, Hopetoun, and Geraldton. The cannery was mostly associated with the canning of fresh fish, although here workers are shown packaging peas.

...to the deep freeze

Chest Freezer, 1969, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 331862PD

Notice the frozen pea packet staged within the freezer.

Simpson heavy duty fridge, 1969, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott, State Library of Western Australia, 331868PD

The freezer aisle

Ready-made dinner

Birdseye baby carrots, frozen broccoli, potato gems, crinkle cut chips, Sara Lee pies, or a Peters ice cream cake. These were some of the frozen foods available in the freezer isle at Woolworths in the 1970s. The onslaught of convenience foods shifted much cooking and food preparation from the home kitchen to the factory. Maximum convenience was offered in single serve 'ready meals' like the Chef Pak dinners pictured. They were available in 'spaghetti and meat sauce' or 'chop suey'.

The freezer isle, Woolworths supermarket, La Plaza Bentley shopping centre, February 1970, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 347007PD
Peters frozen foods, 30 August 1978, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 328627PD

The super-market and the car

Coles New World supermarket, West Armadale Shopping Centre, 7 September 1982, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 322676PD

Supermarkets flourished with social changes brought by car ownership; trips to the shop decreased in frequency. This was aided by non-perishable canned foods and frozen options. Households with cars were able to reap supermarket benefits of bulk buying and lower prices. The socio-economic divide between households with vehicles and those without widened, as households without often had to pay more at the local grocer.

Plenty of room for car parking

Aerial view of the Morley shopping precinct, 1973, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 360445PD

[From clockwise] Cars at Bunbury Plaza Shopping Centre, 1969, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 342064PD. Holden Kingswood cars in Webster Motors car yard Midland, 1970, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 345068PD. Titan Ford car yard and showroom, 1979, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 320243PD

'Self-service' supermarkets

Freecorns Food Store

Amidst the Great Depression in 1932, David Freecorn opened his first 'Freecorns' grocery outlet in Adelaide Street, Fremantle. By 1948, the chain had grown to nine stores. Freecorns operated in Western Australia for over forty years until the business was sold in 1977 and the Freecorns brand disappeared.

Freecorns food store in Bentley, 1969, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 346576PD

Shopping - an outing for the whole family

Family outing to Freecorns, 1974 Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 360904PD

Tom the Cheap - est. 1946

Thomas E. Wardle is known to have 'revolutionised' supermarket trading by offering a 'no-frills' self-service shopping experience at his 'Tom the Cheap' super-markets. He used deferred pay from the war to set up his first grocery store on Fitzgerald Street in North Perth in 1946 and attracted customers with extremely low prices. He applied a 10% goods markup instead of the 25% markup used by competitors. By 1965, Wardle had expanded the business with 90 stores in Western Australia, including the Fremantle shop pictured here. There were an addition 24 stores in South Australia, 14 in Melbourne, and 2 in Sydney.

It was called 'self-service' because customers retrieved items from the shelves themselves rather than over a counter with the help of shop assistants.

Tom the Cheap Grocer, Fremantle, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 347630PD
SAVING IS BELIEVING!

-Tom the Cheap in store signage, 1976

Tom the Cheap was committed to maintaining a rhetoric of cheapness at all times.

Choosing vegetables in the fresh produce section of Tom The Cheap Supermarket, Perth, 19 August 1976, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 328055PD

- Tom Supermarkets television advertisement from around 1988

We've made big changes!

-Tom the Cheap in store signage, 1976

Inside a Tom The Cheap supermarket, Perth, 9 August 1976,

One of Tom the Cheap's savings came from discriminatory employment tactics. The business employed married women as store managers because of a perception that they would be less interested in promotion, and a belief that they were more more equipped to supervise the shop assistants (young women) who were the cheapest labour of all.

Woolworths Supermarket

Woolworths opened its first Western Australian store in 1957 on Hay street Perth. Additional branches followed.

Woolworths Fremantle, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 347863PD

Woolworths Family Centre

Woolworths Family Centre at Centre Point Shopping Centre, Midland, December 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott, State Library of Western Australia, 326980PD

Woolworths expanded to operate self-service variety stores known as 'Woolworths Family Centres'. Family centres were established in Queensland in 1970, followed by New South Wales and Fremantle, Western Australia in 1971. The Midland store, pictured, opened in 1972.

Woolworths supermarket at Bunbury Plaza, 1969. Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 325037PD
Interiors of the Woolworths supermarket, Grove Plaza, Cottesloe, 20 November 1980, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 322195PD
It's the one stop shop that's got the lot where you get your dollars worth.

-Woolworths television advertisement from the 1980s.

Interiors of the Woolworths supermarket, Grove Plaza, Cottesloe, 20 November 1980, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 322195PD

Coles New World Supermarkets

In 1966, Coles New World Supermarkets opened its 100th Australian store. The 100th store was also the first store in Western Australia. Coles New World first opened in Frankston, Victoria in 1962.

Coles New World Supermarket, Subiaco, 1977, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 362407PD
Opening of Thornlie Square Shopping Centre, 19 July 1970, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 32663PD

Dollar Dazzlers

Coles supermarket, Karawara Shopping Centre, 1 August 1980, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 322105PD

-1980s Coles New World television advertisement

At the end of the advertisement, a customer is pictured handing over cash including a $2 note. The Australian $2 note was introduced with the change from the Australian pound to the Australian dollar and the decimalisation of currency. The note was superseded by the $2 coin in 1988.

Check out all the dollar dazzlers at your Coles New World

Action Food Barns

Action Food Barns was another Western Australian chain. Established in 1970, Action Food Barns operated until 2007 when stores were sold or converted into other supermarket chains.

Belmont Growers Market in the Action Food Barn, Belmont, 8 August 1986, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 324169PD

Demise of the deli

With increased competition from larger supermarkets local grocers and corner delis slowly disappeared from suburban landscapes.

The local shop, 1972, Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Corporate Photography, State Library of Western Australia, 347296PD

Explore more

Further reading

  • Bernat, Cory (2011) 'Food culture, supermarkets and packaging: A researchers perspective, National Museum of American History, < https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2011/10/food-culture.html > Accessed 10 March 2020
  • Crawford, R. (2008). But wait, there's more...: a history of Australian advertising, 1900-2000. Melbourne Univ. Publishing.
  • 'How Woolworths Started and Grew' > http://www.perishablepundit.com/docs/woolworthshistory.pdf > Accessed 10 March 2020
  • O'Connell, J. (2020) 'Australian Food History Timeline', < https://australianfoodtimeline.com.au/food-history-timeline/ > Accessed 10 March 2020
  • Schwarzkopf, S. (2011). The subsiding sizzle of advertising history. Journal of Historical Research in Marketing.
  • Symons, M. (2007). One continuous picnic: A gastronomic history of Australia. Melbourne Univ. Publishing.
  • Smith, Charlotte, (2016) 'Domestic Refrigeration & Refrigerators, Museums Victoria < https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/710 > Accessed 10 March 2020 
  • The Story So Far—Coles Myer Ltd.,” Victoria, Coles Myer Ltd., 1989; “Coles Myer Ltd.—A Brief History of the Company,” Victoria, Coles Myer Ltd., 1991
  • The West Australian, '100 Most Influential Business Leaders who shaped WA 1829 - 2013',(2013) < https://info.thewest.com.au/westadvertising/feature/20131129/downloads/feature.pdf > Accessed 10 March 2020

This digital story is part of a series created for the online exhibition Staged To Sell: Iconic Advertising Images from the Stevenson, Kinder & Scott Photographic Collection.

Created By
State Library of Western Australia
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Credits:

Photographs - State Library of Western Australia Pictorial Collection