1920s: The Rise of Four Square stores
December 19, 2018
Four Square stores are synonymous with 1950s New Zealand but rose from the mid 1920s to dominate their market for many decades. Only at the beginning of the 1970s did self-service supermarkets displace this old format.
Four Square still holds on in small towns as the major provider where the market or logistics run isn’t worth a major supermarket’s competitive efforts. Many of the old citadels hold on as mini-supermarkets or dairies but that’s not how they used to be.
I used to think ‘Four Square’ was a play on the basic ‘Three square meals per day’ but the food outlet were doing us one better. It is an English idiom but perhaps also colloquial to a sailing culture who arrived in New Zealand by sea?
We drive or we fly today so sailing lingo or references to having all our sails flying have been lost and left behind in our past. This idea occurred to me when I read the following in a 1927 novel..
“Lately he had seen his life pretty well four-square to fate again.”
Indeed, the founder of Four Square, John Heaton Barker, according to wikipedia,…
“He immediately realised he had a suitable name for the buying group, stating that “they would stand ’Four Square’ to all the winds that blew”
Not bad! I wonder if ‘Countdown’ is related to the Space Race then? No trace of romance whatsoever in ‘Pak’n Save’…
ps Interesting letter to the editor from the Herald the other day on this topic and Countdown. Will share in next post…