Woolworths cops fierce backlash over Australia Day merchandise ban

Aussies are calling for a boycott of Woolworths and Big W after the retail outlets stopped selling Australia Day merchandise.

Woolworths’ decision to stop selling Australia Day merchandise has sparked a fierce backlash with conservative voices including Opposition leader Peter Dutton calling for a "boycott" of the retail giant until "we get common sense".

A poll run by Yahoo News Australia revealed that 81 per cent of almost 2,500 voters believed shops should still sell the themed products – from thongs to stubby holders – so they could "wear Aussie colours", while 19 per cent said the concept was "outdated".

When approached by Yahoo on Thursday in the wake of the backlash, Woolworths declined to comment further pointing to the fact that customers can still purchase Australia Day merchandise online from My Deal, which is a part of the Woolworth Group.

A photo of a Woolworths store combined with an image of an Australia flag themed thong.
Woolworths has copped backlash for its decision not to to sell Australia Day merchandise in 2024.

Previously, it said the move was largely a business decision, with a "gradual decline" in consumer appetite, alongside a "broader discussion" around the January 26 date, and what it meant to different sections of the community.

"We know many people like to use this day as a time to get together and we offer a huge variety of products to help customers mark the day as they choose," a spokesperson said.

Predictably, social media erupted with Aussies eager to express their views, with the phrase "go woke, go broke" regularly bandied around, while others shouted them down as being "out of touch" with the current political climate.

Dutton says Woolies decision is 'an outrage'

While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stepped away from the debate, instead urging Aussies to "give respect to First Nations people" and reflect on what it meant to be Australian, Dutton said, "I think it’s an outrage, to be honest".

He told Ray Hadley’s Morning Show on 2GB he would "strongly advise" a boycott of Woolies and Big W, suggesting shoppers take their business to IGA, Coles or Aldi.

"It doesn’t make any sense to me because it’s not what the customer or their employees want," Dutton said. "Most Australians, I think, just want to go to get groceries at the cheapest possible price because a lot of them are struggling to pay the bill when they get to the checkout at the moment.

"As I say, if it's your decision not to celebrate Australia, well, that's not something I agree with, but that's your decision and I respect that. But I don't want to go into Woolworths and be told how I need to vote. How I feel about Australia Day."

Woolworths accused of being hypocritical

On X, formally known as Twitter, TV personality and Sky News contributor Prue MacSween branded Woolies "hypocritical" and "out of step with mainstream Aussies".

"That’s it for @Woolworths for me. No longer selling Australia Day merchandise because some people get offended by it,” she wrote.

"This company, along with Coles/Wesfarmers threw $ at the Voice. It’s time to voice our opinion of woke companies who are offending us. Hitting them at the cash register is the best way to do it."

Meanwhile, Carla Efstratiou, who hosts the Go Woke Go Broke podcast, predicted the national day "will cease to exist in a few years’ time".

"Australia Day is being phased out by big corporations and eventually it will be by the government," she said in a TikTok.

Woolies backlash branded 'top shelf hilarious'

The merit of celebrating the date the First Fleet arrived on Australian shores in 1788 – signalling the start of British colonialism – is obviously a contentious topic, one which becomes more polarising every year.

However, many social media users pointed out the irony of the consumer-centred uproar, particularly as much of the merchandise is made off-shore, while others wondered what all the fuss was about.

"Hang on, you lot go on about freedom, Australians are free to do as they please and that includes not buying tacky, made in China, unrecyclable cr*p for Australia Day," one wrote on X. "If consumers ain't buying then no retail outlet is gonna stock it. That's not 'wokeness', it's business."

A First Nations man summed it up by stating, "The absolute hysteria over Woolworths not selling Australia Day landfill is top shelf hilarious and one of those moments where I kick back, crack open a tinnie and have a laugh at these deadset RW (right wing) broken headed sooks."

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