Journalist Malcolm Knox has released a book investigating the harrowing duopoly of Woolworths and Coles in Australia. The book, ‘Supermarket Monsters: The Price of Coles and Woolworths’ Dominance‘ exposes the secrets and dirty tricks used by the two to raise and consolidate their power.

Australians spend $100 each week at either Coles or Woolies. Whether you’re buying groceries, hardware, petrol or alcohol, or sliding money into a pokie machine, some of your hard-earned cash is finding its way into the pockets of these two.

Australia has the most highly concentrated supermarket industry in the world. This allows the two major players unprecedented market power. In recent time one, or both of them, have threatened entire retail industries, intimidated farmers, suppliers and employees, artificially raised prices on goods, and caused incalculable damage to local industries.

Knox talks about the mega-businesses forcing suppliers to pay ‘voluntary’ funds to marketing, forcing shopping centre managers into ‘ruinous’ terms, and taking legal action against anyone who dare oppose them (even dead employees!).

“It’s impossible not to be affected by them,” said Knox. “To live in Australia today, you have to try very hard not to come into the orbit of Coles or Woolworths on a daily basis.

Coles Woolies image: www.abc.net.au

Coles Woolies image: www.abc.net.au

“As a journalist, it seems that this was something that hadn’t really been examined in a holistic or cohesive way. Bits and pieces would come out, but it seemed necessary to bring those pieces together.”

Knox had done previous work in this area, but nothing as comprehensive as the book he now presents.

Many people have turned to Aldi, shopping at the discount chain as a sort of protest vote. But Knox believes they may in fact be worse. What Aldi lack in nationwide power they more than make up for with international clout.

“Aldi do many of the same things to a more effective extreme,” said Knox. “It’s like the protest vote in an election, but you don’t realise you’re only aggravating the situation.”

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