I have written about supermarkets before a few times, you’ll see some links sprinkled throughout this article that will take you to them. I’d not written about supermarkets though for Australia and New Zealand magazine, not until recently anyway. This article appeared in the magazine’s November edition and they gave it the following title.
Regular readers will know that I like to talk about pubs, places, beaches, barbecues and pubs. Today I’m going to do something different, today I’m going to talk about supermarkets.
I used to go to supermarkets in the UK far more than I do here in Australia, you’ll find out why very soon. Anyone moving to Australia can say goodbye to Tesco and Sainsbury and most of all the other eight or so major supermarkets that you have in the UK. So what would you get instead? You’ll get Woolworths and Coles and very little else.
So, how do they compare?
Walk into any one of those big supermarket chains in the UK and you’ll get groceries, of course, but you’ll also find quite large sections selling other things. Clothes, magazines and newspapers, toys, beers, wines and spirits, electrical goods and maybe even sports or office equipment. In some of them you’ll even find a small restaurant or cafe serving fresh cooked hot food. Perfect for replenishing the energy you expended loading up your trolley with all that stuff.
Here, in our supermarkets, you’ll pretty much just get groceries and not much more. There will be some tiny sections selling batteries, a few light bulbs, pads and ballpoint pens, weed killer for the garden, maybe some pest control products and other general essentials, but nothing anywhere near as big as the UK non-grocery sections.
Now you know why I rarely go to supermarkets here.
That is not to say though that Woolworths, and the Wesfarmers owned Coles, won’t sell you this stuff. They’ll just do it from other stores. Between them they own Australia’s two biggest home improvement chains, three massive discount department store chains, an office supplies chain and about eight major bottleshop (beer, wine and spirits) chains.
They also sell almost half of all Australia’s retail petrol. So there really isn’t much you can’t get from these two companies. They are so big they both make the world top 20 retailers list.
Is this a problem?
Many think it is, suggesting this is an unhealthy duopoly that is not good for Australians. Let’s look on the bright side; it’s better than a monopoly. At least these two giants are fighting each other for market share.
The landscape does appear to be changing in recent years though, Aldi began trading in Australia in 2001 and since then their stores have been springing up like mushrooms. They have already grabbed around 11% of the east coast market. Costco arrived in Australia in 2008 and now have seven megastores here and German giant Lidl are due to arrive at any moment.
The competition is already looking healthier.
What’s really important though are the prices. Let me just check. 1 kg of white sugar from Tesco’s; 59p. Both of our supermarkets are selling the same for one dollar. Loosely speaking, not much in it. Not enough data you say? Okay, I have done a couple of comparisons on my website before, buying 12 random items each time.
Things like mustard, bread, milk, coffee, eggs, salmon, beef and rice. The first time my shopping basket was five dollars cheaper in Australia, the second it was eight bucks cheaper in the UK. This fluctuation was more to do with the different exchange rates between the pound and the dollar than anything else.
The reality is, there really isn’t much in it between our two countries, duopoly or not. The price of groceries in Australia is not a deal breaker for anyone thinking of making the move.