Store Locator
Start Search

Brand History

  • 1860
    • Caleb Soul, an Englishman, came to Sydney having spent some years working in the drug industry in both England and U.S.A. He quickly realised the opportunity for a retail chemist to import his own drugs and patent medicines direct from the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. Practically everything in the pharmaceutical field in those days was imported by wholesalers and retail prices were very high.
       
  • 1870
    • In 1872 he opened a pharmacy at 177 Pitt Street Sydney, advertising, "all goods sold at New York and London prices". The venture was an immediate success. Because he believed his son's name sounded more honest than his own, he traded as Washington H. Soul. The first Soul Pattinson Chemist in Pitt Street was a one-room shop and within a year larger premises were needed and the pharmacy moved down the road to 158-160 Pitt Street.
       
    • He moved to 158-160 Pitt Street, the present head office of the Company, and included a large soda fountain and milk bar, the first in Australia and modelled on American drug stores. He also opened a separate Ladies Department under the control of a trained nurse, another first in Australia and an immediate success. The milk bar and soda fountain soon became one of the social scenes of Sydney. Table service was provided to a number of marble topped tables, together with straight-backed chairs.
       
  • 1880
    • Lewy Myall Pattinson, originally an engineer by trade, joined his brother, William in a pharmacy business at Corbridge, Northumberland, England. Lewy read about the success of Soul in Australia and in 1881 came to Australia and New Zealand to appraise the situation. Lewy Pattinson made himself known to Caleb Soul and decided there were good opportunities for a business run on similar lines.
       
    • In 1886 the premises at 160 Pitt Street were burnt down and Soul built the present building, which was called the Phoenix building with a phoenix on top of the front facade, being the phoenix rising from the ashes. This building is still standing and is one of the nation’s busiest Soul Pattinson stores.
       
    • After a stint back in England, Lewy Pattinson returned to Australia in 1886, and opened a pharmacy at Balmain. Like Soul he imported all of his drugs and patent medicines, and ran his business along similar lines to Soul's. The two men became friends and never opened in direct opposition to one another.
       
  • 1890
    • Pattinson & Co. purchased the Redfern and North Sydney pharmacies of Richard Alliband. Alliband continued as manager for some years and he and his sister Sophia became close, life long friends of Lewy Pattinson and his wife. Pattinson & Co. expanded rapidly and about 1890 William Pattinson came out to Australia and joined Lewy. Like Soul, Lewy Pattinson quickly established his own warehouse and laboratories. Two of the very successful patent lines were Dr. Scott’s Compound of Glycerine and Linseed and Thorburn Ointment which rapidly became national sellers.
       
    • John Spence, a pharmacist from Newcastle, Northumberland, England came out to Sydney and, having heard of Pattinson’s went into the Oxford Street shop which was then managed by William Pattinson, and introduced himself. William invited him home to dinner and, together with Lewy, the three became great friends. John Spence was later invited to join the partnership, which he did.
       
    • Lewy Pattinson used to ride around the shops in the morning, arriving at head office about lunchtime, and in those days used to tether his horse outside. One day in the 1890s, on arriving at head office, he found the whole block had been boarded up. There had been an outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney. Washington Soul, Caleb’s son, was waiting for him and said "Mr. Pattinson, I have taken the liberty of moving your head office to our head office at 160 Pitt Street, Sydney. Please continue to use it until you are allowed back into your own premises".
       
  • 1900
    • Washington Soul had no sons and approached his old friend, Lewy Pattinson, and asked if Pattinson & Company would buy him out. Pattinson agreed and after discussion with his partners, Pattinson & Company bought out W.H. Soul, effective from 1st April 1902. At this point in time Pattinson & Company had 16 shops, together with their own warehouse and factory at Camperdown. Pattinson & Company shops were at Balmain, Oxford Street, Newtown, George Street, Paddington, Haymarket, Liverpool Street, Redfern, Glebe, Brickfield Hill, Leichhardt, Bondi, George Street North, Victoria Markets, Circular Quay and North Sydney. Washington H. Soul, in addition to their warehouse and factory, had shops at 160 Pitt Street, Parramatta, Newcastle, Cessnock, and Lithgow.
       
    • As part of the purchase consideration Washington H. Soul took a £30,000 mortgage over 160 Pitt Street. Australia was beginning to emerge from the bad depression of the 1890s and Lewy Pattinson’s partners were nervous about the size of the mortgage. It was decided to form a public company and offer shares to the public. In December 1902, 33,500 ordinary shares of £1 each were offered to the public with Sydney stockbrokers, Mullens & Company as broker to the issue.
       
    • Out of respect for his old friend, Lewy Pattinson included the name of Washington H. Soul in the name of the new company, Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd. which was incorporated on 21st January, 1903.
       
  • 1910
    • Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd. built a new modern warehouse and factory at Wentworth Avenue, Sydney. It remained as the warehouse until 1960 when it was sold after a new factory and warehouse was acquired at Kingsgrove.
       
  • 1920
    • Dr. William Frederick Pattinson, son of Lewy Pattinson, having returned from the war, was persuaded by his father to join the business. He was put in charge of the shops and John Spence Jnr. in charge of the warehouse and factory. Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd. expanded very rapidly on the retail side under the very energetic management of Dr. Pattinson. He was ably supported on the wholesale and manufacturing side by John Spence and William Hatcher, the warehouse manager.
       
    • About 1921 Ken Mulholland was put in charge of the Newcastle shops. He had served two years of his apprenticeship before the war and completed his apprenticeship and examinations post war. The Newcastle shops improved dramatically under Mulholland and they were formed into a separate company called Soul Pattinson (Newcastle) Pty. Ltd. and Mulholland was appointed Managing Director. It was decided to purchase premises in the main shopping area of Hunter Street, Newcastle. Dr. Pattinson, John Spence and Percy Gordon of Morrow & Gordon, Architects, were sent up to Newcastle to try to negotiate a deal. Lewy Pattinson got Percy Gordon to one side and told him "not to let the young fellows do anything silly". Percy Gordon used to frequently tell this story, saying that both W.F. Pattinson and John Spence had far more business experience than he had as an architect. A suitable property was purchased and the Hunter Street shop was opened.
       
  • 1930
    • The Soul Pattinson retail outlets expanded rapidly between 1920 and 1937 with more than fifteen pharmacies opening in New South Wales, in Sydney suburbs from Bankstown to Hurstville, and in the Newcastle region. Today there are over 80 Soul Pattinson Chemists nation wide.
       
    • In 1936 three Boots directors arrived in Sydney and approached Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd., saying that they intended to open in Australia. As the Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd. group was very well established Boots did not want to compete with it and suggested forming a new company – Boots Australia Ltd., with Soul Pattinson putting in its existing business at independent valuation and Boots matching this figure with cash, the new company to be known as Boots Australia Ltd, with 50% shareholding by Soul Pattinson and 50% by Boots, England, and to be managed by the then present Soul Pattinson executive. This course of action was agreed upon by both parties.
       
    • The Pharmaceutical Guild lobbied individual members of Parliament, predicting that this company, Boots Australia Ltd. would put a lot of private chemists out of business. The Government appointed a chain store inquiry to investigate the matter. The inquiry lasted for some three years and the final finding when handed down was that if Boots opened in New South Wales it would be of benefit to the public.
       
  • 1940
    • In spite of the government inquiry findings and in spite of the fact that Boots had been invited to open in New South Wales, the government introduced legislation in 1940 prohibiting any new pharmacy company from starting in New South Wales and pegging existing company pharmacies to the number of shops in operation at that time. In addition, an existing shop could only be moved within a five mile radius. The only two companies of any size were Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd. who at that stage had 42 shops and Hallams Ltd. who had 13 shops. The Pharmacy Act prohibited further expansion, putting a stop to the company’s rapid growth, and for the next fifteen years there was virtually no expansion of business on the pharmacy side except for renovating existing shops.
       
    • Unable to expand rapidly due to the legislation changes, the company instead pursued its policy of store improvements and promoting new lines. Cosmetics were a major focus of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The store at 160 Pitt Street featured a large cosmetic counter with prestigious brands such as Max Factor, Revlon and Helena Rubinstein. The company’s stores remained virtually exclusive retailers of cosmetic brands until the 1950’s when the major department stores began to set up cosmetic counters.
       
  • 1950
    • Around the same time department stores took away cosmetic business, supermarkets were encroaching more and more on traditional domain of pharmacies. Washington H Soul Pattinson needed to devise a way to maintain and build on it’s success; the concept of agencies emerged as the company’s life force in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Agents (pharmacy outlets) were allowed to use the company’s name and tap into it’s vast wholesaling network in return for purchasing all their supplies from the company. The agency system allowed the company to extend further into Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.
       
  • 1960
    • With the demise of retail price maintenance in the early 1960’s, the agency business expanded rapidly. As a result, the company’s warehouse operations were soon making more money than the 42 shops. In 1961 a property was purchased at Kingsgrove from Kingsgrove Laboratories and the warehouse and factory transferred from Wentworth Avenue into these new modern premises. Wentworth Avenue, with its nine storeys had rapidly become less economical with all goods having to be handled several times. In the 1950’s the company had 2 agents, by the end of the 1970’s, they had more than 200.
       
    • From the early days of the war until 1960 resale price maintenance operated throughout Australia. Manufacturers fixed the price of their product and refused to supply any retailer who cut the price, so prices were the same in all retail outlets for all patent medicines and toiletry lines. A number of large manufacturers, principally Reckitt & Colman, Bristol Myers, Parke Davis and Burroughs Wellcome restricted all of their lines to pharmacy only. In 1961 one or two of the larger manufacturers, amongst them Bristol Myers, ceased their policy of resale price maintenance. Bristol Myers manufactured Ipana toothpaste, the second largest selling toothpaste in Australia. Ipana was a chemist only line, and its loss to pharmacy was catastrophic. Similar lines immediately moved into the supermarkets and variety chain stores at cut prices. This trend accelerated rapidly during the next two years and Washington H. Soul Pattinson & Co. Ltd. and the rest of pharmacy were faced with a major crisis.
       
    • J.S. Millner persuaded the Board that the only thing to do was to fight back and under cut the supermarkets and chain stores. Using wire baskets placed at the front of the shop two or three "specials" were sold at the lowest prices available to the public. This technique was very successful and after a downturn in profit in 1963 the Company’s business once again became highly profitable.
       
    • In 1967 the company successfully opposed legislation to limit the type of goods sold in pharmacies and how they were advertised. The company’s victory over the government allowed pharmacy to compete on even terms with Coles and Woolworths.
       
  • 1970
    • By the late 1960’s the Kingsgrove factory and warehouse was producing and marketing over 2,000 different lines of pharmaceuticals and toiletries. The Washington H Soul Pattinson branches and agents took most of this stock, but the company was eager to continue expanding and began to look further afield. In the early 1970s Soul Pattinson commenced exporting its manufactured products and soon built up a thriving export trade, principally in New Guinea, Fiji, and other Pacific Islands, Singapore and Malaysia, Nigeria, Hong Kong and Malta. By 1973 there were Soul Pattinson agents in 26 countries.
       
    • In 1969 the Pharmacy act was amended allowing the company to start moving it’s branches. During the early 1970’s the company spent $1 million on store relocations. Less profitable inner city stores were closed and new branches were open. In 1971 new stores opened in Bankstown square, Penrith Plaza, Hornsby Plaza and Miranda Fair. In addition the company decided to adopt supermarket-style techniques in it’s store layout. Staff numbers were reduced; they were needed mainly on checkouts and behind counters in certain sections such as cosmetics and the dispensary.
       
    • By the end of the 1970’s the company was still facing pressure from supermarkets and department stores. It fought back with aggressive marketing and promotional activities. One of the first steps was to expand Soul’s own brand products to include a range of grocery products and traditional corner shop staples such as dishwashing liquid, honey, sunflower oil, skim milk and confectionery. The company also introduced health and fitness departments into many stores and saw considerable increases in this category.
       
  • 1980
    • Perhaps the most outstanding success of the decade was the promotion and development of Soulcolor. A deal was struck with Hanimex to do all the developing and printing for Souls. Soulcolor was a tremendous success and at its peak in 1986 accounted for approximately 10 per cent of Washington H Soul’s retail business.
       
    • Rapid expansion of the agency business in Queensland necessitated opening a warehouse in Brisbane in 1980. In 1983 a new warehouse was opened in Perth to supply agents in Western Australia.
       
  • 1990
    • Pharmacy operations continued their steady growth during the early 1990’s. By 1994 pharmacies within the Soul Pattinson group totalled 300 and plans were underway for further expansion in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. The range of home brand products was increased to more than 350 and companies such as Avon, Park Davis, Oral B and Gillette entrusted the manufacturing of their products to Soul Pattinson Manufacturing. The company became so well known for its line of own brand products that competitors such as FH Faulding and Sigma delegated products to be manufactured at Kingsgrove. Even Woolworths and Coles had their own brand pharmacy lines such as vitamins and analgesics, produced at Soul Pattinson manufacturing.
       
    • The number of pharmacies in the group peaked in 1997. However, it became obvious that the retail format used successfully over so many years became tired and needed to be updated. In-depth market research was undertaken and it was obvious from the results that change was needed. Consumers wanted pharmacies to present a professional image and provide an environment where they felt comfortable seeking medical advice for themselves and their families. A new store design package was developed and rolled out across all stores.
       
  • 2000
    • Soul Pattinson Chemist is now wholly owned by Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (API) following the acquisition in May 2000. API is an integrated healthcare services company with four core business operations – pharmaceutical, distribution, manufacturing, retail pharmacy brands and hospital and medical distribution. It was established as a chemists’ co-operative in 1910 and listed on the ASX in 1997. Soul Pattinson Chemist has 100 outlets nationally and continues to provide Australian families with trusted advice and traditional pharmacy service.