The Sad State of Shopping in Australia

Paul Wayper has written a blog post criticising the main chains of grocery stores in Australia [1]. That is the cartel of Coles and Woolworths (which was formerly known as Safeway in some parts of Australia), and the German newcomer Aldi.

While he does make some good points I think he was a little harsh on Aldi. As a portion of the stock on shelves (by quantity stocked, shelf space, number of products, or almost any other metric) it seems that Aldi easily beats every other decent sized grocery chain for the portion of the stock being organic food. Aldi also has a very high portion of their stock being fair-trade – also probably beating the other chains handily. Having organic fair-trade food sold in bulk at low prices is a really good thing!

Paul criticises the lack of range on offer in the major chains. Aldi has the smallest range as their entire business model is based around offering a small range of products in a relatively small store at very low prices. That dramatically decreases the amount of stock that they have and therefore decreases the amount that is spoiled and the expense of storing and tracking it all. I wonder if the success of Aldi can drive other stores to getting a better range of products. Why buy a small range of products from Coles or Woolworths when you can get a similar small range from Aldi at low prices that the business models of Coles and Woolworths can’t match? This may even drive consumers to buying core products (bread, milk, pasta, etc) and some basic luxury products (cooking wine, basic chocolate, cheap soda, etc) from Aldi and then buying other products from specialist stores. This might result in more delicatessens!

Aldi also has a weekly selection of special items. For example selling snow boots etc just before winter starts. In most parts of Australia we don’t see snow much and a cheap pair of snow boots is a good investment for the one day a year that most people spend at the snow. These specials provide real benefits to consumers – although not to the Australian economy.

Paul complains about own brand products. But for some products such as sugar you will get the same product from home brand as from other brands (there aren’t really many options for sugar) and it’ll probably end up being Australian just due to economics.

When you buy big-name products you are mostly paying for marketing. For some things there are real taste differences (such as Coke for me), but for lots of things there are no difference, so I’m happy to buy “own brand”. Generally not paying for marketing is a good thing.

I totally agree with Paul’s point about buying Australian to help the local economy and also to avoid the transmission of diseases. Any treaty which forces us to accept the import of products from countries that have diseases that can be transmitted to Australian crops should be voided. It seems that the WTO is specifically designed to benefit corporations at the expense of member countries and their citizens.

Paul gave a positive review to IGA, I wasn’t impressed with my local IGA the last time I visited it. But I’ll give it another go.

2 comments to The Sad State of Shopping in Australia

  • malte

    What really gets me about Aldi is their no-bullshit-policy. There really is no bullshit. Their milk is the best compared to all other milks of the same price in other supermarkets, you can be pretty sure that the prices are very well calculated and you don’t get prices which are announced to be low, but really more expensive then somewhere else and – and that’s really one of the main points for me (and true at least in my street, where there is a variety of different supermarkets) – the employees are the best and most motivated, which you can only get when the circumstances you are working in are at least not bad.

  • Jared

    I learnt a year or two ago that buying Australian Owned products was hard at the best of times in our duopoly. So I went in search of other options. I found 2 sources online believe it or not that have meant I only go to Coles, Woolworths or Aldi maybe once every 2 months or so. For all my shelf storage products there is and for all my fresh food there is and I’ve never looked back. Worth a look, not just for Australian Owned but also who can resist shopping at 3am and having it delivered to your door. Both services have never failed me (and I’m not affiliated with either except a happy long-term customer of both).