Australia Day Controversy Hurts Woolworths’ Brand

Woolworth’s Brand took a hit in January, but Most Australians Still Hold Positive Views of Major Supermarkets

The controversy over Woolworths’ decision not to stock Australia Day merchandise had a negative effect on consumer attitudes to the supermarket’s brand, according to new research from DemosAU.

DemosAU surveyed 2373 adult Australians on their attitudes towards Coles and Woolworths during January.

The results showed consumers generally hold the two major supermarket chains in high esteem, with both brands scoring high net positive ratings* of +37% (Woolworths) and +38% (Coles).

However, Woolworths’ brand took a hit during the month, with a clear decline in its net score following Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s January 11 comments about the supermarket’s decision not to stock Australia Day merchandise.

Among those surveyed prior to January 11 (n=1066), Woolworths had a net score of +43%, which dropped to +33% among those surveyed after that date (n=1307) – a decline of 10%.

Coles experienced a smaller decline, with its net score dropping 2% from +39% to +37% across the two periods.

Cost of Living Criticism

DemosAU Head of Research George Hasanakos said both supermarkets faced criticism from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and others around cost of living concerns and prices paid to farmers during January, which would help explain the decline in both brands’ net scores.

“The strength of both Coles and Woolworths’ brands took a hit during January, but the decline was greater in Woolworths’ case, suggesting the criticism over Australia Day merchandise had an impact,” he said.

“Importantly, the impact was enough to see Woolworths’ loose its previously leading position over Coles, going from a four point lead to a four point deficit against its rival.”

Mr Hasanakos said the decline in net scores was particularly strong among men, especially in the case of Woolies.

Woolworths’ net positive score declined by 13 points among men between the pre-Jan 11 and post Jan 11 period, and by 7 points among women, while Coles’ score declined by 6 points among men and rose by 1% among women.

However, Mr Hasanakos said the majority of Australians retained a favourable view of both supermarket brands, with more than 50% of people responding positively to both, across most demographics.

Coles and Woolworths’ Brand Strength Remains

Across all respondents, 54% had a positive view of Woolworths, while 29% had a neutral view and 17% were neutral. For Coles, 53% had a positive view, while 15% had a negative view and 32% were neutral.

“This was a challenging start to the year for both brands in terms of political and media attention, but the majority of respondents seem to have take the controversies in their stride,” he said.

“In fact, compared to research we’ve done into other prominent Australian brands, both Woolworths and Coles retain ratings that many prominent brands would dream of,” he said.

You can find more demographic tables and our methodology statement here.

See more of our research at our News page.