1804 Branding J - What's in a company name?

What’s in a company name?

Every day, we shop at familiar retailers. Have you ever wondered what their branding (or names) actually mean? A recent article on news.com lifted the lid on some company name origins. Here’s some that caught our eye.



The K in K Mart has an interesting background.

When Kmart arrived on Australia’s shores in 1969, it was a joint venture between Coles supermarkets and the brand’s US owners.

Today, Kmart Australia is 100% Australian owned and has no connection to Kmart USA, but the K still references its stateside founding.

The American company’s history goes back to travelling salesman Sebastian Spering Kresge from Pennsylvania. In 1897, he opened his first store in Memphis and by the 1950s Mr Kresge had 600 stores bearing his surname.

The stores began to convert their branding to the simpler Kmart name in 1962, the K a nod to its founder. Mr Kresge died in 1966, three years before the first Kmart opened in Australia.



The Australian origins of this chain is easier to explain.  “The Big W chain grew from Woolworths’ original ‘Variety’ stores, which carried a small range of general merchandise products. Big W’s name is a reflection of the close relationship the brand has with Woolworths Supermarkets,” a spokeswoman said.

The first Big W store opened in 1976 in Tamworth, NSW, when the company decided to make the divide between its two types of stores more distinct. Supermarkets retained the Woolworths name while other stores took on the new badge.

However, many of us could now be doing our weekly shop at “Christmas” but for on oversight in New York.

It was one Percy Christmas who, in 1924, decided to set up a shop in Sydney’s CBD.

The obvious thing to do would have been to put his own name above the door. But on discovering the New York based FW Woolworth Company hadn’t trademarked their name in Australia, Percy decided to brand his new shop as the “Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement”. And it’s that store that became the Woolies we know today.



The Swedish fashion powerhouse may be relatively new to Australia, but Europeans have been happily sorting through racks of reasonably priced clothes since the late 1940s. The store was initially known as Hennes, which is Swedish for “her”, as they only stocked women’s fashion.

Two decades later Hennes acquired men’s outfitters Mauritz Widforss and Hennes and Mauritz, or H&M, was born.



Anna Albrecht opened a grocery store in 1913. Her sons eventually took the business on, and in 1962 decided they needed a rebrand. They combined the “Albrecht” family name and the word “Discount” and ended up with Aldi.



An acronym, the “IK” in the furniture giant’s name, is the initials of founder Ingvar Kamprad.

The Swedish farm he grew up on was called Elmtaryd, within the village of Agunnaryd. They later provided the E and the A.


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