CHEAPER grog, harm minimisation and propping up some questionable business practices by Australia’s two supermarket giants; Aldi’s bid for a liquor licence at its South Fremantle store has sparked a fascinating debate.
On one hand opponents such as Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk say there’s already a Dan Murphy’s and Liquorland in the Douro Road complex. Adding another outlet, particularly one that’s offering bargain-basement prices, could increase problem drinking in a city which already has a reputation for anti-social behaviour.
But Aldi counters that Coles and Woolies are stitching up the liquor industry to the detriment of independent retailers, smaller wineries and customers, and without its presence there’s nothing to bring them back into line.
Coles’ and Woolies’ move into alcohol sales has been so successful they’ve soaked up 80 per cent of the market in the last 15 years through their high-vis outlets Dan Murphy’s and Liquorland.
But recently they’ve been quietly buying up WA wineries and rebranding them under their own labels.
Consumers won’t always know they’re buying a homebrand vino, as the supermarkets slap trendy labels on them to maintain the illusion of choice.
But it allows them to undercut the very wineries they stock on their shelves, or slash their prices. The Chook spoke to the representative of one small Great Southern winery who said they were shocked when one of the supermarkets rang to say they’d have just a couple of days to collect the rest of a slow-moving wine otherwise it was going straight to the remainders bin.
In it’s application to the liquor licensing department, Aldi says it only works with existing vintners to develop products and doesn’t prevent them from producing wine for other markets.
“The Aldi model does not, therefore, have the same deleterious affect [sic] on the development of the liquor industry but rather makes a valuable contribution to it,” the supermarket’s application says.
Ms McGurk agrees the Coles/Woolies model is of concern, but isn’t buying Aldi as the knight in shining armour.
“The solution is surely to encourage independents, not more cut-price box outlets,” Ms McGurk told the Herald.
“The feedback I’m getting from residents is that this neighbourhood doesn’t need another discount liquor outlet, let alone one right within a supermarket.”
But when the Chook popped down to the Douro Road shops this week, opposition wasn’t that strong.
Aaron Scagliotta is in favour of Aldi getting a liquor section, saying more competition and choices will lower prices.
“There’s probably a social view that more alcohol will be a problem,” he says, gesturing to the other two liquor stores in the complex. “What are you gonna do? You can’t resist change.”
South Freo resident Chris Ward similarly says “no dramas”.
But Brooke Jones was concerned about the social impact of more booze.
“I know that there’s quite a bit of homelessness and people with alcohol issues from what I’ve seen and hear, so I feel like it’s probably not the best idea,” Ms Jones says.
Ms McGurk urged others in the community to make submissions to the liquor department, with the closing date of April 5.
by STEVE GRANT and ALICE ANGELONI