Four Square (supermarket)

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Four Square
Founded 1924; 93 years ago (1924)
Headquarters Auckland, New Zealand
Number of locations
Parent Foodstuffs

Four Square is a chain of supermarkets in New Zealand that was founded by John Heaton Barker.[1] It has 280 stores throughout New Zealand, mostly in small towns.


The household name Four Square emerged in the 1920s out of the Foodstuffs grocery buying co-operative. Foodstuffs’ founder, Mr J Heaton Barker, became concerned at the activities of the grocery chain stores of the day that were making life very difficult for independent grocers in Auckland. On 6 July 1922, Heaton Barker called together members of the Auckland Master Grocers Association and discussed their plans for forming a cooperative buying group of independent grocers. On 1 April 1925, this buying group registered a company called Foodstuffs Ltd, which was the first of three regional cooperatives based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.[2] The name Four Square emerged when Mr Barker, while talking on the telephone to one of the buying group members on 4 July 1924, drew a square around the 4 of the date on his calendar. 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".[3] By the end of 1924 products were appearing under the Four Square name, and by 1929, discussions were underway on the use of a common branding on stores. Early versions of the Four Square sign were produced in the form of red and gold hand painted glass panels for display in members’ stores. In February 1948, New Zealand's first self-service grocery store was opened in Onehunga by Phil Barker (the son of the founder of the group) and Ray McGregor. This soon became the norm for grocery retailing.[citation needed]


The Four Square was named after Barker on 4 July 1924, after drawing a square around the 4 on the calendar which he then stated, "they would stand 'Four Square' to all the winds that blew."[2]


Their symbol, "Mr 4 Square" also known as "Cheeky Charlie",[4] was developed in the 1950s. The image is often closely associated with the art of New Zealand artist Dick Frizzell, who has used the iconic character in many of his works.


Four Square operates over 280 stores around the country. Some Four Square supermarkets exist in Australia.[2]


  1. ^ Milton-Tee, Ann. "Harry Heaton Barker". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Four Square: About". Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Mr Four Square: a kiwiana nostalgia trip". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  4. ^ "Cheeky Charlie". Retrieved 21 June 2017. 

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