Just How Dominant Are Woolworths And Coles?

Massive market share for Woolworths and Coles is the backdrop to virtually every discussion of the supermarket industry in Australia, but just how large is that share? The answer is: enormous, but it does depend on how you look at it.

Trolley picture from Shutterstock

The Conversation's new election fact checker site looked into the numbers, which are complicated to calculate and come from a number of sources. The two key stats to take away:

  • Collectively, Woolworths and Coles account for about 70 per cent of packaged grocery sales — an enormous proportion.
  • For fresh produce — fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy — the share is somewhat lower, at 50 per cent.

While those numbers are high, they aren't at the 80 per cent level that is sometimes quoted. More tellingly, they suggest that despite all the emphasis on "freshness" at both chains, plenty of us prefer to buy our fresh items elsewhere.

For shoppers, the advice remains the same as ever: shop around to find the best match of price and quality you can. For business owners, the results are more mixed. In packaged goods, it seems clear that if you're not selling into the big two, your chances of survival are slim. The market for fresh goods is not as dominated yet, but concerns over whether it will head that way seem unlikely to disappear in the near future.

FactCheck: do Coles and Woolies control 80% of the market? [The Conversation]


Comments

    shop around to find the best match of price and quality you canKinda tough when the big two are holding 70% of the cards and the minor competition can't even sleeve a few cards to stay competitive! I really think it's time to reign those two in and force them to start treating their customers as customers and not cash cows. I'll grant though, I'm no expert so I have no idea how that can be done, but a code of ethics that are maintained by someone with teeth would help. Who would that be.... the ACCC.. Wrong! They have no teeth...

      Woollies where I live has the best prices out of just about everywhere for packaged goods, I don't see myself as a cash cow.
      Fresh stuff is usually cheaper at the fruit and veg shop and butcher, but then it depends on how much your time is worth to go there.

        Yeah, I wasn't talking about you in particular, looking at the big picture and people in general...
        My point is that their conduct is less than exemplary. Ask yourself this.. beside the big two, where else would you go for your groceries in general? There really isn't that many choices that are even at the same price point, unless you run around from shop to shop..!

        Last edited 09/07/13 9:28 am

          Aldi?

            Seriously ? :)
            Aldi is OK if you know what they have at any given moment and are willing to accept whatever they have that is good right now but their selection is kinda lacking... :)

              absolutely but its so much cheaper and I find I can get the majority of my stuff from there and just pick up a few extras from colesworth

                Indeed.
                Basics like flour, olive oil, eggs, canned tomatoes and dishwashing liquid are always in at Aldi. No, you don't get much choice in brands so you just grab the things that you like and ignore the other bits.

                I used to do just about all my shopping at one place, but now I go to Aldi, the Asian supermarket (mostly for greens and dumplings), the butcher and greengrocer. Thanks to competition prices at these places are generally on-par or even better than Aldi/Colesworths, and the produce itself is typically better.

          ACT has a superbarn in town that a friend who lives close to it goes. It probably compares in size to a standard Coles or Woolworths. If you aren't fussed about range, theres then IGA or Aldi. Costco is an option for some although it doesn't appeal to me since I buy groceries for myself so their bulk sales are overkill for my needs.

          The problem in my eye for smaller chains is they typically dont carry the range of items that Coles and Woolworths do. Most people I know don't particularly love to go grocery shopping, so being able to do everything under one roof is quite appealing to them. I think there is room for smaller outlets, but they need to play to a market segment that the larger chains probably won't cater to (more niche gourmet meats and vegies for example)

          While the situation must be very difficult for smaller stores, as a consumer I don't feel like the Coles/Woolworths duopoly has been too big an issue for me personally. If there was another one or two larger chains, perhaps the competition would be a bit fiercer but the small guys would still be hurting in the end of the day.

            I use Woollies myself, the range is decent and I don't need to run around. Would much prefer it though if if there was decent competition. Costco is a thought, but mostly are bulk shopping related. Pity there isn't someone that fits, but the big two make it hard to compete for everybody.... :)

            Interestingly enough in my ACT suburb an IGA was given permission to open in our local shops to ompete with the nearby Woolworths. Little did thet consider the fact that there was a small family owned supermarket two doors down.

            IGA seems to make a song and dance about being the little independant guy but they nearly ran this family out of business. Since they opened though a portion of the suburb has boycotted the new IGA.

              I'm in the ACT as well. While behind the scenes it may be a different story, on the surface IGA seems to do quite well here. There's at least one in almost every suburb.

              For what I consider 'Inner North', there's really only the Dickson Woolworths in terms of big chains. Besides that there's IGA's everywhere and you have to travel to Super Barn in town or a bit further out to get to the next Woolies/Coles. Being Canberra, going further out doesn't mean you are travelling for particularly long, but certainly the IGA's far outnumber the Coles/Woolies.

      I really think it's time to reign those two in... Who would that be.... the ACCC.. Wrong!

      So you want someone (but not the ACCC for whatever reason) to make Coles and Woolworths pull their heads in, but you also want to do all your shopping in one building and for all the best bargains to be in that one building?

      "force them to start treating their customers as customers and not cash cows"

      Where are these magical places that sell their wares for lower prices than Cole or Woolies? I tried buying pet food from a pet food shop and their prices were way higher than the supermarkets. Also, unless you want to run all over the place, which in the end is not worth it for your average family shopper, I doubt you will come out ahead.

      If you don't want to be treated as a 'cash cow', and you think your local Coles or Woolworths is treating you poorly, then you should shop elsewhere. For 70% of Australians, they'd rather the convenience of a single store, and obviously happy to pay a few extra dollars to save the 10 minutes it would take to go to another store.

      Yeah, I wasn't talking about you in particular, looking at the big picture and people in general... My point is that their conduct is less than exemplary. Ask yourself this.. beside the big two, where else would you go for your groceries in general? There really isn't that many choices that are even at the same price point, unless you run around from shop to shop..!

      No, you weren't talking about @darren in particular. You were talking about you in particular.

      (Ninja edit: left a sentence open.)

      Last edited 09/07/13 12:26 pm

        I don't know why you seem to have a bug up yer but about this, but let me see if I can clarify it for you! I'll use numbers to match your quotes as much as is possible.
        1) I want the ACCC to have more teeth not someone esle to do it, that was fairly self evident!
        2) Do you have shares or something? because they are all about gouging their customers to maximise profit for their shareholders, they aren't in it to make you happy!
        3) Actually that third one is complete drivel, maybe you should clarify that one!
        4) No, you weren't talking about @darren in particular. You were talking about you in particular. What now..? Could have sworn that one was self evident also. My point is that their conduct is less than exemplary, how else do you need it explained?
        If you are going to go on a long rant on a subject, it's a good idea to be able to clarify that rant... otherwise it's just nonsense, and I'm sorry but your whole comment was nonsense!

        Last edited 09/07/13 1:47 pm

          Just yesterday we decided to stop buying the $1/L milk as it is hurting the dairy farmers here in Tassie. So we will buy the brand that costs a bit more.

          This is the kind of conduct I don't agree with - strong arming producers into shit arrangements.

          Although they have done good things too - kickstarted the Australian garlic market. They basically said to the growers - whatever you can grow, we'll buy it all.

          I'm sure there are lots more cases on either side. Don't know much about Coles, don't like them much.

    I've started buying as much as I can from Farmers Markets.
    I find the food tastes better and the quality is consistently better.

    A lot if work is being done to help IGA. The only issue there is that as IGA grows, it will almost certainly become like Coleworths (Coles and Woolworths).
    Aldi seems a popular alternative, albeit limited range. Many say that Aldi has the best of the best.

      The IGA where I live (Darlinghurst) is so much more expensive than the nearby Coles and Woolworths and the range is so much less. I would like to support them, but my wallet says no :(

      Thankfully, the chances are fairly slim - IGA is made up of a whole bunch of independent chains and stores who've teamed up primarily for brand recognition and sharing supply channels.

      While they all share the cost of advertising, the profit goes to much smaller companies and local store owners. The individual owners also get a lot of control over how they want their stores to look and function (that also means there can be a big difference in price and quality between different IGA stores)

    I work for a Woolworths company, but I avoid shopping with them as often as I can, I buy my Meat, Milk, Cheese, fruit & veg at small local outlets and the Farmers market, its certainly better quality and most of the time the same price but often cheaper, I also buy my Pet supplies at a local Pet supply store, I get larger amounts with better pricing. I avoid the big 2 as much as I can and support the smaller local shops wherever possible. The big 2 have far to much control of the market.

      Where are these magical places that sell their wares for lower prices than Coles or Woolies? I tried buying pet food from a pet food shop and their prices were way higher than the supermarkets. Also, unless you want to run all over the place, which in the end is not worth it for your average family shopper, I doubt you will come out ahead. :)

      Last edited 09/07/13 12:15 pm

        Buying pet supplies online in my opinion is the only way to save money on the supermarket. And it is ridiculously cheaper. If you're not in a huge hurry to get stuff. You can save a lot of money from shopping and the big 2 but you have to be organised and if you wait until you run out of something it doesnt really work.

          Well, to use just one example, I purchase a bag of litter for our 2 cats, a 18L bag from Woolies is $18, I can buy the same product in a 30L bag for $19 from a local. The deals are out there, you just have to look around.
          But that is what the big 2 want, they want people to get lazy or who are time poor to buy every thing from them. Yes it adds a bit more to my shopping trip, but I plan what I need, plan my trip and it only adds about 20 mins to my overall trip (if that) and I end up with better quality or more for the same outlay that would have gone 2 the big 2.

            It's good that you have a system that works for you and more power to you, but the average home shopper doesn't have the time or the money to run around looking for the best bargain not available at the big two.

              But they have time to keep up with their favourite reality tv program lol.

    As much as I hate the current situation, what the bit two have going for them is that they operate their own distribution chains and keep profits in Australia.
    When you shop at Aldi, profits go to the parent company in Germany, and if you shop at an independant like IGA, they buy from Metcash, who are South African.

    I just shop wherever is convenient.

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