In 1956 Woolworths first entered food retailing with their Food Fair store, it wasn't until 1967 that Woolworths launched its first Supermarket in Henderson
Woolworths was expanding and in 1971 acquired the self help grocery chain and later rebranded these as Woolworths.
1980 saw L.D. Nathan acquire the McKenzies General Merchandise stores, these stores were then rebranded as Woolworths. With the large number of general merchandise and supermarkets L.D Nathan decided in 1985 to split the into two separate divisions; supermarkets and general merchandise. L.D Nathan rebranded their General Merchandise business in 1988 to DEKA. 1987 and 1988 saw the launch of the Price Chopper and Big Fresh brands
The chain had three supermarket brands, each with a different offering: Woolworths is a full-service supermarket; Big Fresh offered a themepark style shopping experience, with tacky cut-out animals and music; and Price Chopper was positioned in the discount sector.
The Woolworths stores are broad-range supermarkets with an average size of . The Big Fresh stores were larger, with an average size of , and offered the widest possible selection and excellent value. The Price Chopper stores were compact with an average size of , and were limited-range discount stores located mainly in small towns.
In 1995 Woolworths introduced a pilot online shopping site with a small group of users. This was early days for on-line shopping in New Zealand. Woolworths was a key player in introducing online supermarket shopping to the New Zealand market. In 1999 Woolworths developed a mini supermarket format at two BP fuel forecourts in a trial project, BP pulled out of the project in 2000.
In 2000 The Food Safety First (FSF) Programme was introduced in all Woolworths and Big Fresh stores nationally. This programme employed HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). This programme was created by the Ministry of Health to identify all potential hazards and controls them before they result in food poisoning problems.
In 2001 Woolworths partnered with Gull Petroleum to establish mini supermarkets at Gull fuel forecourts called Woolworths @ Gull
In 2001 Dairy Farm International sold its Woolworths New Zealand Limited business and it merged with Progressive Enterprises (operator of Foodtown, Countdown, SuperValue and FreshChoice. In 2005, Woolworths Limited re-acquired the New Zealand unit.
In 2003 the onecard was launched, this card offers shoppers exclusive discounts on products and entry into competitions. The card was previously known as the Foodtown card but was relaunched with a new name after the merger between Progressive and Woolworths (NZ) Ltd. The card can now be used in Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown stores.
In October 2006, Progressive Enterprises announced a Discount Fuel Scheme with Gull Petroleum and Shell to offer discounts on petrol when shoppers spend $40 or more in their Woolworths, Foodtown or Countdown Stores. This scheme is similar to the one their Parent company Woolworths Limited offers in Australia.
These brands were dropped by Progressive Enterprises when Dairy Farm International Holdings sold the company in 2002, and replaced with the Signature Range (SR) and Basics brands. With the purchase of Progressive Enterprises by Woolworths Limited