Retail bodies at blows over campaign against shopper dockets, launched today

The Independent Retailers of Australia has appealed to Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to abolish the “misuse” of supermarket fuel dockets via a national advertising campaign, launched today.

The campaign, featuring full page advertisements in major metropolitan newspapers, appeals to the leaders of both parties to “commit their support to ensure that competition in both the fuel and grocery markets is fair”.

“The fuel dockets offered this year by Woolworths and Coles amount to selling below cost”, the advertisement said.

“We believe this is a misuse of their ever increasing power in each of the fuel and grocery markets. The supermarket chains already sell approximately 80 per cent of groceries and 50 per cent of fuel and liquor in Australia. If these fuel dockets continue at these levels it’s going to be very hard for other players to compete.”

The advertisement argues that this system may lead to just two major players in the supermarket industry surviving, at the long-term detriment of customers.

The campaign is in response to an ongoing investigation by the ACCC into the competitive nature of supermarkets and shopper docket fuel discounts.

The IRA comprises a group of retail bodies, including the Australian Retailers Association, Master Grocers Australia, Australian Newsagents’ Federation and Council of Small Business Australia.

ARA chief executive Russell Zimmerman told SmartCompany this morning that the far-reaching campaign was designed to run in the lead up to the federal election. He says the retail industry bodies are asking to “stand up and be counted”, and want the elected government to give the ACCC the power to manage the competitiveness of the shopper dockets.

“This is been going on for 12 months,” he says. “We want action.”

Zimmerman is concerned about the future of independent retailers and petrol stations, believing they won’t survive if the big supermarkets continue to offer fuel on the dockets “below wholesale rates”.

However, Australian National Retailers Association chief executive Margy Osmond has criticised the campaign, stating that the shopper dockets enable consumers to save.

“Competition is good for consumers and the strong competition already evident in the market has meant lower prices for the Australian community,” she said in a statement.

“Shopper dockets schemes have the approval of the ACCC and a range of retailers, including IGA stores, offer them as recognition of customer loyalty.

“Shopper dockets have been around for more than 17 years, and over the last 10 years the market share of independent retailers has tripled in size, increasing to 17%,” she said.

Osmond said the ANRA respect the process of the ACCC enquiry underway.


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