Woolworths CEO responds to backlash over decision to not stock Australia Day merchandise
Woolworths CEO, Brad Banducci, has responded to the backlash following the company’s decision not to stock specific Australia Day themed merchandise in the lead-up to 26 January 2024, stating it was not an attempt at cancelling the annual day.
Banducci clarified the decision was based on declining sales of such merchandise. Instead of stocking imported Australian themed merchandise, Woolworths will focus on providing fresh Australian food for Australia Day long weekend gatherings.
“As a proud Australian and New Zealand retailer, we aren’t trying to ‘cancel’ Australia Day. Rather, Woolworths is deeply proud of our place in providing the fresh food that brings Australians together every day. As evidenced during COVID or increasingly natural disasters such as what is currently unfolding with Cyclone Kirrily in Northern Queensland. Woolworths will always support Australians in the moments that matter,” Banducci said.
The decision to stock this mostly imported merchandise has to be made almost 12 months in advance, and it was deemed not commercially viable.
“In terms of merchandising – our commercial decision to not stock specific Australian Day general merchandise was made on the basis of steeply declining sales. The decision to stock this mostly imported merchandise has to be made almost 12 months in advance. So as a business decision, it doesn’t make commercial sense,” Banducci explained.
As reported in Mi3, Woolworths and Big W first confirmed on 12 January that they will not be selling additional Australia Day themed merchandise this year due to a gradual decline in demand and growing cultural dissentiation about the inclusivity of the national public holiday on 26 January.
ALDI will also not be offering any Australia Day themed Special Buys in January to coincide with the Australia Day public holiday. Third-party seller marketplace MyDeal, which Woolworths acquired in 2022, will continue to sell some Australian themed products this month.
Coles will maintain a small range of Australian-themed summer entertaining merchandise throughout January which is popular with their customers for sporting events such as the cricket and tennis, as well as for the Australia Day weekend. A Coles spokesperson said, “We are 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.”
Last year, Kmart made a similar decision to Woolworths and Big W, choosing not to stock Australia Day merchandise, stating the decision was about ‘being respectful and inclusive to all.’