Australians are expected to spend less this holiday season as the rising cost of living continues to hit family budgets. But some frustrated shoppers are even calling for people to get creative when it comes to shutting their wallets – and send a message to supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles over prices rises.
Brisbane woman Dylan Fragomeni is among a small group of influencers calling for shoppers to boycott Woolworths and Coles in the days immediately before Christmas, which are usually some of the busiest trading days for the major retailers.
"Buy all your Christmas stuff beforehand, preferably from somewhere else. If you've forgotten anything on the 24th, go to a different shop if you can," she said in a video this week which has been watched more than a million times on TikTok.
"What is normally their most profitable day of the year is going to become their worst day of the year," she urged.
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Dylan said she was motivated by a belief that Woolworths and Coles – which have posted record profits this year – could do more to keep prices rises on essential items being passed onto customers.
"Businesses are there to make money I get that but in a time where the people who keep your business alive are struggling it seems a bit unethical to make an increased profit from that," she argued.
"All the people in the comments complaining that it won’t work but also then complaining about the prices. Like okay if you hate it why not join in with us and try do something about it." Instead she is urging her followers to shop at their local FoodWorks, IGA, farmer's market or Aldi to "send a message" to the dominant players.
Aussies urged to shop independent, but boycott gets mixed reaction
Dylan, who works as an auto electrician, says she has changed her shopping habits due to rising prices. "I used to shop wherever was the most convenient ... but now I will wait and shop at Aldi or the dollar stores."
She admits the call for a boycott has received a mixed reaction online with some people mocking the idea, some people declaring tacit support and others simply appearing resigned to the reality of inflation. But she's far from the only one to get behind the push.
Others promoting a December boycott of the big supermarkets on social media have been sharing a recent speech made by Victorian MP Ellen Sandell in state parliament. "The supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths is ripping people off," the Greens MP argued. "Groceries this year across the board are up 10 per cent, outpacing inflation. But you know what else is up? The profits of the supermarkets."
Sensing an opportunity, Queensland independent grocer Skippy's Fresh Frootz jumped on the train posting a video on Thursday supporting the boycott, urging Australians to "shop independent" this Christmas.
Record nominal profits spur shopper anger
While inflation has been unevenly felt across the economy, consumers are more sensitive to price rises in certain essential items like food and fuel, resulting in the supermarket giants drawing the ire of some Aussies.
Coles posted a $9.2 billion first (financial) quarter sales revenue, an increase of 4.7 per cent on the same period last year. While major rival Woolworths posted their own results, showing a $12.96 billion in food retail sales, an increase of 6.1 per cent.
While the cost of some fresh produce has actually come down in recent months, Aussie are overall buying more groceries as we scale back on eating out.
"Aussies are trying to scrimp and save wherever possible but the money we're not spending on going out or takeaway food usually just funnels back to the supermarkets,” financial expert David Koch told Yahoo Finance last month. "And when prices go up they seldom come down as we all get used to paying more for less. The mega-store duopoly doesn't help either as there's less competition to help drive down prices."
Woolworths and Coles respond to boycott calls
For its part, the supermarket giants say they work to reduce prices where they can.
In response to the boycott calls, Woolworths points to the thousands of products on its Low Price program and its commitment to lower prices on 150 popular Christmas items.
"We're acutely aware of the pressure that's being placed on Australian families through cost of living increases, whether they are our customers or our team members. And we’re doing more everyday to help customers spend less with us," a spokesperson told Yahoo.
"At Coles, we believe all Australians should be able to put quality food on the table for their families and we are always exploring ways to reduce prices on the products we sell," a Coles spokesperson told Yahoo.
Nonetheless, more than a third of Australians said the rising cost of groceries has had the biggest impact on their household budget and was the biggest financial burden, above mortgage repayments and energy prices, according to a recent Compare the Market survey.
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