Independent grocers rally in the name of competition

INDEPENDENT grocers Australia-wide are using the November 10 election to get their concerns about the growing strength of the Coles and Woolworths grocery chains heard.

The National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia is targeting marginal seats in the forthcoming poll by telling its members to vote for the candidates who can give them a written guarantee that they will support their efforts to break the dominance of the two major grocery chains.

The grocers’ demands include protection against predatory pricing, increased pricing transparency, the introduction of stronger competition measures and a simpler GST.

Attendees at a recent rally in the marginal Perth seat of Moore gave the campaign rousing support.

Between them the major grocery chains, Coles and Woolworths, have a 74 per cent share of the national grocery market.

They only hold 60 per cent of the WA market, thanks to the State’s isolation and the strength of independent grocery chains, such as Dewsons.

WA Independent Grocers Association president John Cummings

said the two major parties needed

to be interested in competition

if they wanted independents to survive.

“If the Government wants one bank, one service station and one supermarket they should tell us and we’ll go away. But if they want competition, they have to protect it,” Mr Cummings said.

“If Coles wants to buy a Woolworths site it has to go through a process with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. But if it wants to buy a Dewsons site, it doesn’t.”

NARGA spokesman Alan McKenzie said the increasing dominance of the major chains was a huge problem.

“With the collapse of (eastern states-based grocery chain) Franklins the major chains could have up to 80 per cent of the market in 18 months,” Mr McKenzie said.

“They’re achieving growth by buying up the big independents such as Newmart, Charlie Carters and Advantage.

“We could end up with something similar to the two airlines policy, where the old Ansett and Qantas matched each other on price and flight times.

“That’s not competition – that’s market sharing.”

He said regional areas would suffer most if the major chains’ dominance was not checked.

“You will never see a major chain go into a town with a population of less than 3,000,” Mr McKenzie said.

NARGA director Sam Richardson said it was time for small business owners to draw a line in the sand.

“It’s not just about market share. It’s about the Australian way of life,” he said.

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