AFR Letters: Another destiny for independent retailers

12 February 2024

Last Monday, the Australian Financial Review wrote that the recent price cuts on meat products by the supermarket duopoly could spell the end of the corner butcher store. Whilst there is a co-operative sector, we beg to differ.

In response, BCCM CEO, Melina Morrison wrote this letter to the editor:

If Karen Maley’s prediction is right (that the ACCC’s supermarket inquiry will only benefit Woolworths and Coles), the Australian corner butcher will be the next independent retail sector transferring to the corpulent bottom line of our supermarket giants, following thousands of independent corner shops, bakers, hardware stores and the humble bottle shop.

But South Australia’s Master Butchers Co-operative shows there is another destiny for independent retailers to compete in concentrated markets. For almost 120 years this co-op has served a network of independent “mum and dad” butchers, securing their livelihoods and ensuring that South Australians have access to market choice and competition. Today Master Butchers Co-operative has more than 440 independent businesses in their group. Networks of independent businesses are still sustainable in the liquor, health foods, cleaning products, automotive, plumbing, building and manufacturing sectors across our land. But far more existed in the past when co-ops were a recognised model for scaling SMEs.

With the right policies we can inject competition between business models – not just between businesses – working in the best interests of the market and consumers, all the while protecting the corner store.

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