Small grocers say days are numbered
Small grocers say days are numbered

Independent grocers have slammed the voracious expansion of Coles and Woolworths retail stores which they say is driving out family businesses.

The independent grocers’ peak body, Master Grocers Australia, has called on the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission to rein in the chainstores which they say are opening over-sized outlets in regional areas to squeeze out competition.

Master Grocers chief executive Joss de Bruin said the Bunbury area was a good example of what his group was up against with big supermarkets opening up far from the CBD and drawing business away from the traditional city centre.

‘‘We’ve seen it in a place called Maitland near Newcastle, they’ve got two or three of these out-ofcentre developments and now the main street of Maitland, which has been trading for 80 years, is half vacant,’’ he said.

Mr de Bruin said the two big chain stores were able to cross-subsidise losses from what he called over-sized supermarkets from liquor stores, poker machines and fuel across the rest of the country.

Carey Park IGA owner Kaye Pridmore said it felt like the two big chains were trying to push small retailers out of business.

‘‘They expand and it’s going to take shoppers away, people only have so much money to spend, they can’t spend any more money,’’ she said.

‘‘All the family businesses are going to go pop.

‘‘There’s going to be no family businesses anywhere any more and then once they’ve got rid of us all then they’re going to put their prices up and people are going to be paying more.’’

The calls come as the Commonwealth Bank conducted an assessment of Woolworths’ growth plans for shareholders with the bank’s financial analysts critical of the retailer opening stores in ‘‘marginal sites’’.

According to Mr de Bruin, the two chains were planning on expanding floor space by 5 per cent each year.

Mr de Bruin’s organisation is planning on lobbying the ACCC to look into competition in the retail sector.

Both Woolworths and Coles were contacted for comment.

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