Fight to the death: Woolthra vs Colezilla.
Image © 1964 Toho Company
Everyone loves a bargain! Am I right? I'm right. But when the bargain seeker is Woolworths, a supermarket chain with market control approaching 40%, and when that chain is engaged in a price-war to the death with Coles, it raises problems that a great find at an opportunity shop doesn't.
Like Mothra battling Godzilla, the two supermarket colossi are so determined to crush one another, their smaller suppliers are being squeezed as well, whether they like it or not. The latest complaint is that Woolies has been using "brutal negotiation" techniques to force prices down, and that they’re not planning to pass the savings onto consumers.
According to Fairfax, some suppliers were given just two weeks to drop their prices by 5 - 10% or face being banished from the supermarket's shelves. Woolies spokeswoman Claire Kimball told Fairfax that there was "nothing unusual happening at the moment ... When we put our position to vendors we often ask them to come back to us in two weeks with their response. However it is a negotiation and this often necessitates ongoing discussions."
This comes just days after allegations from ex-Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett that a brand of bread sold by Coles and marketed as freshly-baked, is in fact imported from Ireland.
Over 50 suppliers have made complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the big supermarkets, and it’s not the first time problems have been raised.
These questions and more are being investigated by a parliamentary committee into the supermarket duopoly and its potential impact.
In the meantime, read the fine print on your bread, and if you see an enormous supermarket wandering through your suburb searching for bargains, stay out of the way!