Primary Sources 50 stories from 50 years of the Archives

The retail face of Melbourne

Two businesses that began in Bendigo shaped the retail face of early Melbourne and Victoria.

Foy & Gibson Pty Ltd began in 1870 when Mark Foy, a draper from Ireland who had owned various produce stores around the Bendigo district, set up a new drapery business in Smith Street, Collingwood. The business prospered and occupied six shops by 1880. In 1882 Foy settled the business on his son, Francis, and brought in William Gibson as Francis' partner. Gibson added manufacturing and direct importing to the business of retail, expanding into kilometres of warehouse and factories, still standing in Collingwood today. Foy and Gibson acquired many subsidiary outlets in Victoria and other states. The firm was taken over by Cox Brothers Australia Ltd in 1955, which in turn was liquidated in 1968. The successor of these businesses is now trading as Big W, part of the Woolworths group.

The Myer Emporium Ltd also developed from a small Bendigo drapery business established in 1900. Sidney Myer arrived in Melbourne from Russia in 1899 and with his brother, Elcon, established the Myer stores, which were to become one of Australia's largest retailers. The Myer Emporium Ltd became a public company in 1925. Kenneth Myer, son of Sidney, was instrumental in building and expanding the company following Sidney's untimely death in 1934, and it was his vision which saw major expansion in bringing retail to suburbia, with the Myer Emporium owning and building the original Chadstone shopping centre.

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