06.Changes in the supermarket landscape
The grocery industry has had a busy schedule since our last survey, with major changes impacting on the landscape. It’s not all good news for consumers, but a few of the changes should go some way to improve competition and price transparency.
- ACCC publishes its grocery prices inquiry report, with the verdict that grocery retailing in Australia is “workably competitive”. Despite this, it points out that Coles, Woolworths and Metcash (Australia’s largest independent grocery wholesaler and distributor) have significant buyer power in relation to many packaged groceries; there’s limited incentive for Coles and Woolworths to compete aggressively on price; and the independent sector poses limited price competition for Coles and Woolworths.
- Woolworths acquires organic food retailer Macro Wholefoods. The eight stores are currently being rebranded as Thomas Dux, an up-market subsidiary that competes against gourmet grocers but isn’t focused on organic food.
- The government pulls the plug on GroceryCHOICE, depriving consumers of timely and accurate information on 35 million grocery prices and local supermarket comparisons.
- Coles sells 45 stores to independent supermarket chain FoodWorks
- Costco Wholesale, a giant US-based retailer, opens its first Australian store in Melbourne. The “membership warehouse club” sells a range of products, including groceries, at substantially lower prices than are typically found at conventional wholesale or retail sources.
- Metcash reaches agreement with Foodworks to supply its 45 newly acquired stores.
- ACCC strikes a deal with Coles and Woolworths to phase out restrictive lease terms that have prevented shopping centre landlords from allowing competitors to open stores in the same centres. However, it fails to use its regulatory powers to prosecute supermarket chains it knows has engaged in as many as 700 potentially restrictive leases.
A report into the ACT grocery sector finds little competition between Coles and Woolworths when it comes to large full-scale supermarkets, and recommends the ACT government prioritise land sales to competitors of the major supermarket chains.
- Unit pricing becomes mandatory in large supermarkets, making it easier for consumers to compare the price and value of similar products in-store.