The activists waging a guerrilla campaign against Coles and Woolworths

Key Points
  • The homemade labels are made to look like real Woolworths and Coles shelf tickets.
  • Initially, the labels were created by a Tasmanian group hoping to draw attention to living costs.
  • Coles and Woolworths both recently recorded billion dollar profits.
A yellow tag under a product on a supermarket shelf usually points out some sort of discount or special. Not in this case.
Unauthorised tickets have appeared on the shelves of the country’s two biggest grocery store chains over the past few weeks.

Those behind the guerilla campaign say they simply wanted to start a conversation.

Sending a ‘special’ message

The homemade labels, made to look like real Woolworths and Coles shelf tickets, have been placed in stores across Australia.
They highlight the big profits the businesses have made in the past year, the high wages of executives, and the issue of food wastage.
One message labelled as a ‘special’ with a Woolworths logo on it reads: “We understand that times are tough, and that’s why we pay our CEO over $20,000 a day.”

Another with a Coles logo reads: “Down, down, affordability is down! (But our shareholders love it.)”

Grassroots Tasmanian group behind the labels

Danny Carney, who spoke to SBS News on behalf of Grassroots Action Network Tasmania (GRANT) — the group behind the labels — said they were made as an “expression of anger and desperation.”
Carney said the group he was part of was small in size and resources so did not have a wider strategy beyond creating a conversation about
A man with glasses.

Danny Carney is part of Grassroots Action Network Tasmania, the group behind the labels. Source: Supplied

“Times are really tough for everyone except for millionaires and companies like Woolworths and Coles, and at some point you just kind of crack and you have to do something,” Carney said.

“Under the system that we have these corporations exist to make profit for their shareholders but that comes at the expense of ordinary people trying to buy food, that’s wrong.

“Things as they are now are not the only way that they have been or that they have to be and we can imagine completely different scenarios and a world where food and housing and all these things that we need to survive aren’t sold for profit is something we should be striving for.”

Carney said GRANT had been surprised by the level of interest the labels had received given it was initially created as a local project, with the first yellow tickets being placed in stores last week.
“It kind of all happened over the weekend, we were very much not expecting it to go as viral as it did but the fact that it did kind of speaks to how hard it is and how fed up everybody is,” Carney said.

A Woolworths spokesperson said store members had removed the unauthorised tags placed in their stores and a Coles representative said they were aware of them.

Australian supermarket profits

In late August, Woolworths posted a full-year profit of $1.62 billion (up 4.6 per cent on the year prior), while Coles’ full-year profit result was $1.1 billion (up 4.8 per cent).
Those came amid periods of in which the price of food has increased.
Earlier this year, the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work pointed a finger at excess corporate profits, with a report by the think tank finding that .

It showed businesses had increased prices well above elevated expenses for labour, materials, and other inputs.

Also in late August, Woolworths CEO Banducci said the supermarket chain was working to reduce the cost of products on its shelves, denying the company was price-gouging customers.
“Our customers scrutinise our prices every day. It’s one of the most cross-shopped grocery markets in the world,” Banducci told ABC Radio at the time.
Coles has also denied it is price gouging and, like Woolworths, has pointed cost efficiencies and improved productivity have helped increase their profit margins.

A Coles spokesperson said the supermarket giant was aware of the cost of living pressures facing consumers and was “always looking for ways to help their dollars stretch further.”

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