Blog: Dean BestRetail recriminations reach Australia

Dean Best | 28 March 2008

In the UK, we’re used to recriminations flying around the retail sector – particularly on the issue of the power of the country’s supermarkets.

It seems a similar spat is developing among our Antipodean cousins in Australia.

The Australian food retail business is dominated by two groups; market leader Woolworths and close rival Coles.

Local industry watchers have long complained that the existence of two powerful grocers hurts suppliers, restricts choice for consumers and pushes up prices.

The recently-elected Australian government made it an early priority to investigate whether there is enough competition in the sector and launched a probe into the industry in a bid, it proclaimed, to ensure consumers get a "fair deal at the supermarket".

The findings of that investigation will be made public in July but, against that backdrop, opposing sides have been trading blows over the debate.

First, the head of the country’s independent retailers took aim with the claims that food manufacturers in Australia are being "done over" by Woolworths and Coles.

John Cummings didn’t stop there, launching a bitter attack on his larger rivals.

Woolies, however, has used these pages to defend its business. The company insisted today (28 March) that food retailing in Australia was "very competitive" and countered Cummings' claims that new entrants found it hard to expand into or enter the Australian food retailing sector.

How long will it be before more blows are landed?


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