Giving the people what they want
There would have been mayhem when a hoard of local shoppers attended the opening of the new Peoplestores retail outlet in the St. Agnes Shopping Centre in 1971. The North East Leader celebrated the event with several pages of photographs, articles and advertisements for the discount department store, in the edition dated 17 November 1971. Just in time for Christmas shopping.
Peoplestores St. Agnes was the eighth store in the retail chain to open in South Australia. In 1971, Peoplestores also traded in Gouger Street in Adelaide City, Modbury (at Clovercrest shopping centre), Para Hills, Rosewater, Elizabeth, Findon and Reynella. There were also six stores in country South Australia.
Library staff who shopped at Peoplestores remember the department stores as being fairly basic, it was better than Kmart but not an upmarket shopping experience. It really was a shop ‘for the people’. Peoplestores was fitted out with large bins, through which you would rummage to find your size or chosen colour. This was possibly an attraction, as shoppers love a treasure hunt to find a bargain.
One staff member recalls that Peoplestores always had lovely window displays. Another remembers shopping with her mother at Peoplestores, as they stocked a quality product. It reminded her of a country store with racks of garments on display, grouped around the shop floor. Peoplestores was especially good for buying wool for crochet, dress materials and habedashery such as buttons. They also bought little girl’s Red Robin socks! It sounds like Peoplestores did not move far from its origins as a drapery.
In a sales cross-promotion, Peoplestores offered the same special prices on goods to shoppers at its Modbury stores as at the new St. Agnes branch. Plus free gifts for children.
Peoplestores drapery was founded by W.H. Williams in 1905. The cloth merchant was built in 1905 on the corner of Gouger and California Street South near the Adelaide Central Market. Peoplestores expanded several times on the same site in Gouger Street.
In the past, people used to travel to the city centre to make special purchases as Adelaide did not yet have suburban shopping malls. Peoplestores on Gouger Street was also close to Moores, Adelaide’s iconic department store on Victoria Square. The former Moore’s building now houses the law courts and has been renamed the Sir Samuel Way Building.
In this photograph taken around 1939 the façade of the store has had a smart renovation in the Art Deco style, which was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The renovations included large plate glass windows and a wide cantilevered verandah (https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au).
The large store in Gouger Street was eventually redeveloped as part of the Adelaide Central Market. This building has now been demolished and is currently the site of several food outlets, including Krispy Kreme donuts.
During the 1980s Peoplestores ceased trading in South Australia, closing its last remaining stores.