Submitted by Sam Huggard on Tue, 05/04/2011 - 4:02pm.
A suggestion that Progressive Enterprises is winning the supermarket wars.
Its competitor Foodstuffs, will make more than 100 employees from their lower North Island bases redundant resulting in cost savings of more than $4 million.
National Distribution Union general secretary Robert Reid says Progressive isn't having the same problems post the recession.
"We are also the union in Progressive and all we see at the moment in that company is expansion of their operations right throughout New Zealand," he told Newstalk ZB.
Robert Reid says the supermarket wars are quite brutally fought between the two main chains. None of the NDU's members are affected in the recent Foodstuffs layoffs.
Foodstuffs Wellington region CEO Craig Wilson says the redundancies will give the company more head room to compete even more vigorously. He says it's been a hard slog for its co-op members who own their stores, so it had to review internal costs.
Mr Wilson says the market has been very slow recovering from the recent downturn.
Foodstuffs owns Pak 'n' Save, New World and Four Square, while Progressive Enterprises owns the Foodtown, Countdown and Woolworths chains.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Thu, 12/11/2009 - 3:08pm.
The best thing to have in business, South Island hotels entrepreneur Earl Hagaman once mused, is a monopoly. At the time he was intent on buying the Christchurch Casino because of its protected monopoly status. Compared with owning and running hotels in a highly competitive market, owning a monopoly like the casino was a business dream, Mr Hagaman reasoned.
By that logic, the next best thing must be a duopoly, where two big players have the market sewn up. This is the case in the New Zealand grocery market, where home-grown co-operative Foodstuffs and Australian-owned Progressive Enterprises dominate. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show the giants are enjoying a very happy duopoly.
According to the OECD, grocery prices have risen 42 per cent in New Zealand in the past decade, while those in Australia, which also has a market dominated by two players, have risen 41 per cent. By comparison countries with more competition – Britain and the United States – have experienced more moderate rates of grocery price rises.
On the face of it there appears to be no shortage of competition between our big two. Both advertise extensively, constantly refreshing their offerings and rethinking their approach. The owner of Timaru's New World, under the Foodstuffs banner, has spent a small fortune redeveloping the Highfield supermarket and its mall and is taking on another 75 staff. You don't do that if you're not sitting pretty in a comfortable duopoly.
Likewise Progressive is spending up large to rebrand its Woolworths stores and its Church Street supermarket has just had a makeover.
While the big two argue their competition is cut-throat the suspicion is that it's become more of a handbags-at-dawn affair than a pitched battle. Critics believe they are going through the routine while protecting established positions which see the consumer lose out.
That is what the Australian Government believes and there has been a lot of jumping up and down about the OECD figures, and talk of bringing the "blowtorch" of competition to the incumbents.
In New Zealand The Warehouse had a crack at the duopoly and failed miserably. Supermarkets do have competition in the form of alternative meat and fruit and vegetable outlets, but there is precious little competition in terms of groceries.
In Timaru consumers have the option of a farmers' market. If the success of the first one, last weekend, is anything to go by, the supermarkets' traditional market is being nibbled around the edges. But until The Warehouse gets its act together, or someone else arrives, there seems precious little consumers or the Government can do.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Thu, 12/11/2009 - 2:09pm.
Waikato supermarket owners are "blown away" by figures showing a 42.5 per cent rise in food prices since 2000.
The news has prompted Labour consumer spokeswoman Carol Beaumont to call for the Government to encourage more competition in the supermarket sector.
New Zealand grocery prices have risen 42.5 per cent between 2000 and 2009, followed by Australia which pays 41.3 per cent more, Britain's prices rose 32.9 per cent and America's were up 28.4 per cent, according to a study out yesterday.
Pak `n Save Mill St owner Glenn Miller said he was trying to obtain a grocery bill from nine years ago as he and his staff doubted the cost of many grocery items had risen to that extent.
He said a can of spaghetti cost 90c in 2000 and now customers would pay $1.09 for the same can. "At Pak n Save the margin we enjoy is lower than many other countries in the world and we think we are still very competitive given manufacturing cost and we try and keep our overheads down," said Mr Miller, who believes Pak `n Save is extremely competitive.
Vege King owner Swaran Singh said prices at his Fairfield fruit and vegetable shop would have risen by up to 10 per cent at the most. In some cases prices had not changed. He said the price tag on asparagus had stayed at $3.99 since 2000.
Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown, blamed international events such as drought as the main drivers of food inflation. Progressive spokesman Bill Moore said the group was consistently striving to offer the best prices and its profitability had remained at between 3 and 4 per cent since Australian-owned Woolworths Limited purchased Progressive four years ago. The group said there was plenty of competition between supermarkets, delis, butchers, green grocers and bakeries.
But Ms Beaumont has questioned why New Zealand is not following the example of Australia's Competition Minister, Craig Emerson, whose government was taking "hard measures" and lowering the barriers to other retailers competing with Coles and Woolworths on that side of the Tasman.
She was critical of Consumer Affairs Minister Heather Roy's suggestion that New Zealanders "shop around" to combat some of the fastest-rising food prices in the developed world, saying it had attracted widespread criticism. It was "poor advice" to families struggling with soaring food bills, Ms Beaumont said.
Public comments on news websites and on talkback radio produced a stream of consumers critical of grocery pricing, with many calling for overseas chains such as Aldi and Costco to compete against New Zealand's Foodstuffs (which owns Pak `n Save and New World) and Progressive Enterprises.
Hamish Wilson, of Consumer New Zealand, said there had been some attempts by other companies, such as The Warehouse, to break into the supermarket sector "but it's pretty difficult". The controversy arose in the wake of the Australian study which says the price of food in New Zealand has risen faster than in any other OECD country other than Korea.
- With NZPA
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Tue, 10/11/2009 - 4:23pm.
The wallet has been a bit lighter over the past 10 years if new figures are anything to go by with food prices both in New Zealand and Australia rocketing up more than 40%.
And experts say it's because New Zealand has only got two major supermarket chains, with a stranglehold on prices.
Statistics prove the cost of food in New Zealand has increased more than almost anywhere else in the 30 countries that make up the developed world.
The OECD figures show Korea had the biggest grocery price hikes over the past decade, 48%. In New Zealand, they went up 42% and Australia was close behind on 41%, all significantly higher than the OECD average of 33%.
A competition expert at the University of New South Wales, Frank Zumbo, says it's not fair on consumers on both sides of the Tasman. "We're paying more than competitor countries and the reality is consumers are being ripped off," he says.
He says consumers are being ripped off because both in New Zealand and Australia two supermarket heavyweights have a stranglehold on shoppers' wallets. Zumbo says Coles and Woolworths control 80% of the Australian grocery market.
In New Zealand, Foodstuffs owns Pak 'n' Save and New World, and Progressive Enterprises runs Foodtown, Countdown and Woolworths.
Hamish Wilson of Consumer New Zealand says this does lead to a lack of competition. "There've been some attempts by people like The Warehouse to try and break into it but it's pretty difficult," he says.
And it seems the increases are not going all the way down the food chain. Ken Robertson of Horticulture New Zealand says vegetable and fruit growers probably have not seen any real price increases in the past 10 years.
ONE News approached both chains. Progressive would not appear on camera but says consumers are getting a fair deal. Foodstuffs agrees. "It is an intensely competitive industry. We certainly don't meet with Progressive and agree price increases or nothing like that," says Tony Carter of Foodstuffs.
In Australia, the government says it's going to take its "competition blowtorch" to the industry. Until that happens in New Zealand, the advice to consumers is to shop around.
Consumer Affairs Minister Heather Roy says the Australians have their blowtorch and National and the Act Party have their regulations bonfire. She says she wants more competition and they are working on taking out some of the red tape and compliance costs to encourage more competition for New Zealanders' dollars.
Zumbo is advocating a marketplace similar to Britain's where four or five big players share about 60% of the market. He says letting rivals such as Aldi have a greater market share is the only way consumers will get a fair go.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Sat, 18/04/2009 - 12:00am.
SOME shoppers are suspicious of a planned five-cent tax on plastic shopping bags by the Foodstuffs chain, concerned that it will serve only to boost profits.
Foodstuffs, which uses about 250 million plastic bags a year, said yesterday that, for environmental reasons, it would charge 5c for every bag sold at its New World and Four Square supermarkets from August 3.
The levy would raise $12.5m a year, if the 5c tax did not reduce the amount of bags used.
Shoppers clutching plastics bags outside Chaffers New World in Wellington had a mixed reaction to the charge yesterday.
Andre van den Assum and Annabel Gardner both said the 5c charge was acceptable, as long as it did not simply boost supermarket coffers.
"If it goes to a charity or an environmental project, that's okay," Mr van den Assum said.
Jason Strawbridge said the bag tax would probably reduce plastic bag use. "But they are just trying to make more money, really."
Foodstuffs managing director Tony Carter said profits would be used to pay for an environmental initiative that has yet to be announced. "Clearly any benefits we get as an organisation we'll pass on to consumers in other ways." A Foodstuffs spokeswoman said "a significant proportion" of funds raised by the levy would go toward environmental projects, the details of which were still being worked out.
Some shoppers welcomed the bag tax. Laura Gilkison, 15, said she would accept a levy of up to 20c. "I'm all for the environment."
Emily Hughes, 16, has just moved from Ontario, Canada, where there is also a levy on plastic bags. "Pretty much no-one uses them now."
Progressive Enterprises supermarket chain said it had no immediate plans to follow its competitor's move. Company spokesman Bill Moore said it was looking at options.
Mr Carter estimated 600 million plastic bags were used by New Zealand supermarkets annually. He would not say how much Foodstuffs paid for its bags, but it was less than 5c each.