Remembering the Frenzied Opening of the Groundbreaking Pick ’n Pay Hypermarket in Aspley

It was a seminal moment in Brisbane’s retail history; the chaotic day that transformed sleepy Aspley into an unlikely shopping battlefield. Nearly four decades later, memories of the unprecedented pandemonium on 7 November 1984, when the city’s first Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket opened, remain vivid.

On that fateful day, a mammoth crowd of 25,000 frenzied shoppers descended, flooding Australia’s first-ever hypermarket in an unbelievable $1 million spending spree. 

Pick 'n Pay Hypermarket in Aspley
Photo Credit: Hypermarket Heroes

Birth of a Shopping Phenomenon  

Imported from South Africa in a joint venture with JBL Investments, the 25,500 square metre megaplex was a revolutionary one-stop shop. It boasted a staggering 82% occupied by Pick ‘n Pay grocery aisles with 78 checkouts, complemented by 40 specialty stores and parking for 1,800 cars.

Pick 'n Play grocery aisle
Photo Credit: Hypermarket Heroes

Yet despite its wildly successful Aspley debut, the hypermarket remained the only Pick ‘n Pay outpost in Australia. Union opposition to South Africa’s apartheid regime quashed plans for nine additional locations nationwide, including a second store in Melbourne.  

To commemorate the opening, Pick ’n Pay annually hosted birthday parties for children born on the 7th of November, 1984, until 1995, when the brand was sold to Coles-Myer. 

The property changed hands again in 2001, selling to You Feng for $62.65 million. In 2007, plans to rebrand it as a Coles SuperCentre were delayed due to the pending sale of the Coles Group. However, it ultimately transitioned into a Coles Supermarket and Kmart Discount Department Store by late 2012. An Aldi store also joined the complex around this time.

An Unlikely Retail Powerhouse

The hypermarket’s advent was merely the latest in a series of transformations for unassuming Aspley. From its agricultural roots providing Brisbane’s fresh produce, the suburb blossomed into an elite residential enclave in the 1960s.

Aspley’s evolution from rural hamlet to retail juggernaut was solidified in 2016 with a $50 million revamp. This welcomed Woolworths and Aldi into the now-renamed Aspley Hypermarket shopping center.

Unmatched Opening Day Pandemonium

While the suburban hub has continued its metamorphosis, nothing quite tops the unmatched pandemonium of that pioneering 1984 launch.

Aspley's biggest retail opening day
Photo Credit: Hypermarket Heroes

Reminiscing about the chaotic opening, longtime residents’ anecdotes paint a vivid picture:

“As kids, we used to sing: ‘Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket, wipe your boogers on the carpet,'” DannyR from Reddit said

For many, the hypermarket’s striking architecture is inextricably linked to childhood memories. 

“So much of my childhood is wrapped up in that one photo,”  Dryopithecinie said. “Was in a minor accident just behind this sign turning right up Maundrell Tce from Albany Creek Rd. Had a bank account at BoQ at Aspley Fountain top left. Still go to Fish On Line that now exists in place of that vacant lot that’s fenced off (right of Maccas sign). Had a few catchups with friends at the Coffee Club in the same lot. So many parties at the Aspley Maccas. Would buy Fags (not Fads!) at George’s which used to be in the shops to the left. Worked in a dodgy sports clothing store in the HyperHole. Went to primary school up the road.”

Shortly before the Pick n’ Pay shuttered permanently in late 2012, a modest memory board was put up near the service desk. The former center management graciously provided me with copies of these photographs shortly after the transition to a Coles and Kmart.

Pick 'n Play in 1995
Photo Credit: Hypermarket Heroes

Whilst Aspley has emerged as an unlikely retail powerhouse, the pandemonium of that November day remains unmatched in Brisbane’s shopping folklore. It was a watershed moment that heralded a new era, cementing the hypermarket’s place in Australian purchasing patterns.

Published 27-May-2024