Australia 'suffers from lack of retail competition'

Australians are being "gouged" when it comes to their everyday spending because of the dominance of the big two retail chains – Coles and Woolworths, it has been claimed.

A business feature in the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that the two companies now run "a near-duopoly" in the $80 billion grocery industry, with market share of more than 70 per cent.

It also observed that they are among the biggest players in petrol retailing, with a combined share of 45 per cent, and that they hold a combined 60.5 per cent share of department stores through Big W, Kmart and Target.

Referring to the companies’ other moves into areas like financial services and telecommunications, the newspaper said: "The activities, coupled with the various loyalty programs being launched by Coles and Woolworths, are designed to capture even more of the consumer wallet and make it difficult to escape."

The comments may interest Aussies looking to compare debit cards in search of greater choice. The paper observed that Woolworths recently opted to exclusively route all debit transactions via the Australian EFTPOS network, instead of through the MasterCard and Visa networks – a move designed to save costs but one that also generates revenue for the retailer.

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