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Who Owns Coles

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Coles is owned by Coles Group. Previously, Coles was owned by corporate giant Wesfarmers. 

For many years, Coles was an independently listed Australian company, growing through acquisitions and organic expansion to become one of the country’s leading retailers.

However, the landscape of Australian retail changed dramatically in 2007 when Coles Group Limited was acquired by Wesfarmers, one of Australia’s largest diversified corporations, in a landmark deal. This acquisition marked a significant shift in the ownership and operational strategy of Coles, integrating it into a conglomerate with interests spanning from retail to mining and industrial services.


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Coles is a cornerstone of the Australian retail landscape, serving millions of customers each week through its vast network of supermarkets, convenience stores, and liquor outlets across the country. Founded in 1914 by G.J. Coles, the brand has evolved significantly over the years, from a single store in Collingwood, Victoria, to a major player in the Australian retail sector. But who owns Coles, and how has its ownership structure influenced its operations and strategy?


Demerger from Wesfarmers

The relationship between Coles and Wesfarmers entered a new phase in November 2018, when Wesfarmers completed a demerger of Coles, listing it as a separate entity on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). This move was strategic, allowing both Wesfarmers and Coles to focus more sharply on their core operations and growth strategies. Post-demerger, Wesfarmers retained a substantial but minority stake in Coles, signifying an ongoing interest in the retailer’s success but granting it operational independence.


Today, Coles Group Limited is a publicly-traded company on the ASX, with its ownership spread across institutional and retail investors. The largest shareholders include financial institutions, mutual funds, and individual investors, both from Australia and around the world. This diverse ownership structure reflects Coles’ significance in the global investment community and its role as a key component of many investment portfolios.

The Impact of Ownership on Coles
The ownership of Coles, particularly its transition from a Wesfarmers subsidiary to an independent entity, has had a profound impact on its strategic direction. As an independent company, Coles has pursued a strategy focused on customer service, innovation, and sustainability. It has invested heavily in technology, supply chain improvements, and store refurbishments to enhance the shopping experience and compete effectively in the highly competitive Australian retail market.

Moreover, Coles has committed to environmental sustainability and community engagement, launching initiatives to reduce waste, lower emissions, and support Australian farmers and producers. These efforts are not only aimed at improving Coles’ market position but also at aligning with the values and expectations of its diverse base of shareholders and customers.

The ownership of Coles by a broad base of institutional and retail investors as an independent ASX-listed company marks a significant chapter in its storied history. This structure has enabled Coles to navigate the complexities of the modern retail environment with a focus on innovation, customer satisfaction, and sustainability. As Coles continues to evolve, its ownership will play a crucial role in shaping its strategies and its contributions to the Australian economy and society.

The story of Coles’ ownership is a testament to the dynamic nature of the Australian retail sector and the importance of strategic flexibility and responsiveness to changing market conditions. As Coles looks to the future, it remains a key player in the lives of Australians, with its ownership and governance structures critical to its ongoing success and resilience.


The Growth Story of Coles: A Century-Long Journey of Retail Innovation

The narrative of Coles in Australia is not just a business case study; it’s a testament to evolution, resilience, and innovation in the face of changing market dynamics and consumer behaviours. From its humble beginnings to becoming a leading name in the Australian retail landscape, Coles has navigated through a century of challenges and opportunities with remarkable adaptability and foresight.

From Single Store to Retail Giant

The journey of Coles began in 1914 when George James (G.J.) Coles opened the “Coles Variety Store” in Collingwood, Victoria. With the revolutionary promise of “nothing over 2 shillings,” the store laid the foundation for a new era of retail in Australia. The ethos of providing value for money became the cornerstone of Coles’ business model, propelling its expansion across the country.

In the decades that followed, Coles ventured beyond its variety store origins, pioneering the supermarket concept in Australia in the 1960s. This move transformed the Australian retail scene, introducing self-service and fixed prices in a large-format store, making shopping more convenient and accessible.

Strategic Acquisitions and Expansion

Coles’ growth was not just organic; strategic acquisitions played a crucial role in expanding its footprint and diversifying its offerings. The acquisition of Myer Emporium in 1985, which included more than just department stores, notably expanded Coles’ portfolio into new retail categories and formats. This period marked Coles as a multifaceted retail player, venturing into areas such as office supplies and apparel.

The 1990s and 2000s saw further expansion as Coles Group acquired and integrated various other retail chains, including Bi-Lo and Kmart, into its fold. These acquisitions not only expanded Coles’ market presence but also allowed it to capture a wider segment of consumers by offering a diverse range of products under one umbrella.

Innovation and Customer Focus

Innovation has been a key driver of Coles’ growth story. Recognizing the shift towards digitalization, Coles embraced technology to enhance customer experience and operational efficiency. Online shopping, self-checkout counters, and the introduction of the ‘Flybuys’ loyalty program are examples of Coles’ commitment to innovation. These initiatives have not only kept Coles competitive but have also set new industry standards for convenience and service.

Coles’ growth has also been characterized by its focus on sustainability and community engagement. Initiatives like reducing plastic use, waste management programs, and supporting Australian farmers underscore Coles’ commitment to social responsibility. These efforts have strengthened Coles’ brand image and fostered customer loyalty.

Adapting to New Challenges

The 21st century has brought new challenges for Coles, from increased competition to changing consumer preferences towards health and sustainability. Coles’ response has been to continuously adapt its product offerings, store designs, and marketing strategies to meet these evolving demands. The introduction of ‘Coles Local’ stores, focusing on gourmet and local produce, and the expansion of online and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrate Coles’ agility and customer-centric approach.


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