Woolworths Not Trying to ‘Cancel’ Australia Day, CEO Says

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The supermarket giant is grappling with a storm of criticism after revelations it would not stock product celebrating Australia Day.

Woolworths Chief Executive Brad Banducci says that a declining demand in sales of Australia Day merchandise was the only motivation behind the supermarket chain’s decision not to stock the items this year.

However, he admitted the reasons behind the decision were not well communicated to the public saying, “We could have done a better job explaining it.”

He was insistent that the supermarket had not joined any campaign to “cancel” the holiday.

“We are celebrating Australia and what it means to be Australian with the way we can celebrate it best, which is with food,” he said. “There are many other places you can buy Australia Day-specific merchandise. We focused on what we do best.”

Mr. Banducci said the decision was made almost 12 months ago, when management looked at the data on Australia Day sales.

Woolworths has since published a full-page advertisement insisting it is not anti-Australia Day.

Pressure on Staff

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The CEO admitted the controversy after the decision was “a weight” on him and had an impact on the workforce.

“They are proud, hard-working Australians, and for them to be seen as anti-Australian or woke, is fundamentally unfair.

“We are a very proud Australian company. We’ve been around for 100 years. We have 178,000 hard-working team members who are going to be in-store doing the right thing for our customers on Australia Day, and we’re passionate about this country.”

He added that stores across the country would be decorated in green and gold to mark the day.

Woolworths is not the only retailer to drop Australia Day merchandise. Big W, Petstock (both owned by Woolworths), KMart, and Aldi have announced similar policies.

As have sporting bodies Tennis Australia—which will not celebrate Australia Day at the Australian Open for the second year running—and Cricket Australia, which will not use the term Australia Day when Australia plays the West Indies in Brisbane on Friday.

In contrast, Coles announced it would be “stocking a small range of Australian-themed summer entertaining merchandise throughout January, which is popular with our customers for sporting events such as the cricket and tennis, as well as for the Australia Day weekend,” a spokesperson said.

Hardware giant Bunnings has left the decision up to store managers, while smaller retail competitors Drakes, Silly Solly’s, and The Reject Shop have all pledged to keep carrying products.

Widespread Criticism

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan told media he believed Woolworths was being “a little bit duplicitous” and was “clearly trying to make a political statement.”

“Brad is a man under pressure, Woolworths is under pressure,” Senator Canavan said. “Thank you to all Australians for standing up against these unelected corporate elites who think they can dictate what should happen in this country.”

Prominent indigenous figures also criticised Woolworths.

Warren Mundine called the decision “disgraceful,” saying, “It is a continuation of what the corporation did in the referendum campaign. They are completely out of touch with the Australian public.

“It’s about time these corporates actually pull their head in … Do your job, you are a retail store for Australia. If Woolworths isn’t proud of this country they can pack up and bugger off.”

Senator Jacinta Price said, “Aussies made it clear last October that they don’t want to be divided. Now, when most Australians are worried about how they’re going to afford their groceries, the activists running Woolworths are spending their time virtue-signalling and trying to divide us.”

However, it appears the call by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to boycott Woolworths has not found favour with the public.

A poll conducted by YouGov and published last week revealed that only one in five Australians supported the idea of a boycott, compared with two-thirds whose main concern was excessive pricing by supermarkets.

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