Woollies denied liquor retail purchases

The consumer watchdog has ruled against Woolworths purchasing more liquor retailers, because it would lessen competition.

Traditionally known as a supermarket giant, Woolworths has also bought into everything from hardware, pokie machines and liquor over the years.

Earlier this year, the national secretary of the food and confectionary division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Jennifer Dowell, told Food Magazine that Woolworths and Coles have extended their reach to control more markets than most consumers realise.

“The mistake that most people make in these Inquiries and things is that they look at Coles and Woollies as retailers, but they are food processors and they control the market,” she said.

“If I control a market I can just put all my own products in it, and as I have said at the inquiry, if I am mother pushing a trolley through Woollies with three screaming kids, and all they have is their own brand, I am not going to pack my kids up into the car and drive around to find non-existent corner stores that stock the product I actually want.

“They try to say they’re allowing consumers to decide, but they are making all the decisions for us, and it’s time we opened our eyes and saw that.

“If a company like Nestle came out and said “we’re going to buy a stake in Coles, and dominate the shelves with our products,” there would be uproar, it would be a huge scandal, but when the supermarkets do it, it’s a non-issue.

“That just doesn’t make sense.”

It’s been accused of damaging competition in the supermarkets sector and various others it has a stake in.

Last month, the Master Grocers Australia accused the corporation of building enormous supermarkets in regional centres, wiping out local competition.

''Master Grocers Australia believes the strategy is conscious, deliberate and intended to bring about a substantial lessening of competition in those local markets where over-large stores are developed,'' a draft report said.

And amid accusations that Coles and Woolworths are intimidating food manufacturers and produce growers so much they are too scared to even speak up at a Senate Inquiry, a leading Australian wine body publically criticised the big two last month, saying they bully winemakers too.

The power is so overbearing that Stephen Strachan would only speak publically once he had finished his role as the chief executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.

It wanted to buy a portfolio of New South Wales pubs from the Laundy Hotel Group, and while the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled it could acquire 28 pubs yesterday, it has denied the plans to also purchase five takeaway liquor retail outlets.

According to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) announcement, Woolworths purchasing 28 pubs is unlikely to substantially affect competition, while the acquisition of the five takeaway packaged liquor retailers would likely substantially lessen competition in the relevant local markets.

The deal is reportedly worth about $500 million.


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