Domestic Lamb

Woolies chief to front Senate inquiry into retail prices

Sheep Central, December 11, 2023

The Woolworths Marrickville Metro store. Photograph – Dallas Kilponen/PPR

NATIONAL retailer Woolworths has confirmed the company’s group chief executive Brad Banducci will front next year’s Senate Inquiry into supermarket prices.

Woolworths operates 1453 retail supermarket stores of various types across Australia.

Between them, Woolworths and Coles control about two-thirds of all retail fresh meat sales in Australia.

“We are very aware of the pressures facing many Australian families,” the company said in a statement.

“We welcome the opportunity to explain to the senate how we are working to balance the needs of our customers, our team and our suppliers in the context of economy-wide inflationary pressure.”

“As we have done at several inquiries this year, we will openly and constructively assist the parliament with its work on this important topic.” The company said.

“We are proud to directly employ 180,000 team members in Australia and support the livelihoods of 18,000 suppliers in the communities we serve.”

This year, senior Woolworths Group executives have appeared before three parliamentary inquiries touching on the topics of cost of living, food security and pricing:

  • The Senate Select Committee on the cost of living
  • The House Standing Committee on Agriculture’s Inquiry into food security in Australia, and
  • The House Standing Committee on Economics’ Inquiry into promoting economic dynamism, competition and business formation.

In providing background, the company said Woolworths’ fresh meat and fruit & veg categories were in deflation, with prices falling.

Australian food and grocery inflation (4.8pc) was lower than headline inflation (CPI) (5.4pc) according to the last quarterly ABS figures for the quarter to 30 September. In comparison, food inflation across the OECD was reported at 8.1pc in September 2023.

Woolworths offers 6,000 specials every week, has dropped the price of all its standard lamb cuts by 20 per cent, as well as dropping the price of 400 products for summer.

In October, Woolworths lowered the price of its half leg ham to $8/kg. This is the lowest price on ham for the Christmas table since 2014.

Woolworths Group’s margins were lower in the Financial Year (FY) 2023 than they were ten years ago (FY 2014), in contrast with ABS estimates of margin growth across the broader economy.

The Senate Committee on Supermarket Prices was appointed on 6 December, to inquire into and report on the price setting practices and market power of major supermarkets, with particular reference to:

  • the effect of market concentration and the exercise of corporate power on the price of food and groceries;
  • the pattern of price setting between the two major supermarket chains;
  • rising supermarket profits and the large increase in price of essential items;
  • the prevalence of opportunistic pricing, price mark-ups and discounts that are not discounts;
  • the contribution of home brand products to the concentration of corporate power;
  • the use of technology and automation to extract cost-savings from consumers and employees;
  • improvements to the regulatory framework to deliver lower prices for food and groceries;
  • frameworks to protect suppliers when interacting with the major supermarkets;
  • the role of multinational food companies in price inflation; and

The committee is due to present a final report by 7 May 2024.

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