Woolworths is Australia’s largest grocery and supermarket conglomerate controlling 37% of Australia’s market share and almost ⅔ of the Australian market alongside its major competitor Coles. In August of 2023 Woolworths reported profits growing 14% year-on-year to over $900 million despite the cost-of-living crisis being experienced by Australians.
Woolworths Faces Criticism for Prices During Cost-Of-Living Crisis
In September, a TikTok by Vivienne Mitchell made national news for highlighting the price of razors at a Woolworths store. Ms. Mitchell stated “there are people in Australia right now who will have to work two hours to afford a pack of eight razors," before then showing the same pack of razors at another store for $10. The original video had been posted in July and viewed 1.7 million times by September.
Ms. Mitchell released a follow up TikTok showing the total cost of four products at Woolworths coming to nearly $140 which she was able to find for less than $90 at other stores. Speaking to the ABC, Ms. Mitchell stated that she couldn’t believe the prices and commented on the growing public outrage
"I think the reason people are outraged now is because lower-income people have always struggled but now people who were in the middle income are noticing."
A spokesperson for Woolworths stated that the company was “acutely aware” of the cost of living pressures Australians were facing:
"We work hard to earn and maintain our customers' trust. We'll continue to listen closely to our customers."
Gary Mortimer, a retail marketing and consumer behaviour researcher for the Queensland University of Technology, stated that the current consumer outrage was unsurprising given Woolworths' recent profits:
"When food prices are going up and then you see the big profits, it's a tough pill to swallow."
In November Woolworths was a recipient of one of Choice’s Shonky Awards, an annual list of products and services viewed as the worst of that year, alongside its competitor, Coles. Choice’s Chief Executive, Alan Kirkland, alluded to a contradiction in the supermarket giants’ corporate behaviour:
“While Coles and Woolies have been promoting how they’re supposedly helping with the cost of living, in the background they’ve been banking huge profits."