MASTER Grocers Australia (MGA), which represents the independent supermarket sector, is opposing the further deregulation of trading hours across Australia.
"This move is aimed at delivering even more market share to the Coles and Woolworths duopoly", MGA chief executive Jos de Bruin said.
"And it will come at the expense of small independent grocers which are typically family concerns.
"Coles and Woolworths already have 80% of the market. Not content with that, they now want to change the law in a way which they know will destroy the one small area where independent grocers are competitive: the ability to open an hour or so earlier than the Big Two and gain a small share of the market."
MGA is reacting to recent public lobbying from the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA), which represents the interests of Coles and Woolworths.
ANRA wants changes to the trading laws to be put on the COAG agenda.
The net effect would be that Coles and Woolworths would be open for longer hours in WA, SA and Queensland.
"We know there is a direct effect on a small, independent grocer when trading hours are extended for Coles and Woolworths," he said.
"Our members have seen a 5% drop in business following changes in Western Australia. Same in Queensland. Many shop owners in our network are only just surviving and this 5% brings some of them to the brink of collapse.
"We have already seen the duopoly act as one when it comes to predatory pricing and to buying up major new sites to muscle out any competition. Now they want to extend that to trading hours."
Mr de Bruin said local stores were an important part of the community.
"Our stores are very much part of the local community and if a store closes it does real damage to the local network of suppliers and support services," he said.
"These ripple effects can be catastrophic for small, local communities but they don't concern Coles and Woolworths who simply want more and more, whatever the cost. However these impacts should be of major concern to our governments when it comes to considering Coles and Woolworths latest demands.
"This shows the myth of competition between Coles and Woolworths. We know the duopoly acts in unison when it comes to the smaller independent operators (members of MGA) who trade under various banners including IGA, Foodland, FoodWorks, SPAR and Friendly Grocers.
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