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Woolies quizzed over future of Ooshies

Woolworths has been questioned if it will retain promotional materials such as Ooshies despite implementing ambitious plastic reduction targets in its supermarket and liquor operations. During questions from shareholders at its annual general meeting, the major retailer was asked if it would retain its popular Ooshies campaign, in light of the retailer’s refreshed sustainability goals…

Woolworths has been questioned if it will retain promotional materials such as Ooshies despite implementing ambitious plastic reduction targets in its supermarket and liquor operations.

During questions from shareholders at its annual general meeting, the major retailer was asked if it would retain its popular Ooshies campaign, in light of the retailer’s refreshed sustainability goals of halving plastic waste by 2025.

Woolworths chairman Gordan Cairns asked for greater clarification on the question, but did not spell out if the supermarket giant would stop the use of plastic promotional materials.

“I don’t have a comment on commitment on promotional items like that … that is entirely in the remit of management,” Mr Cairns said.

The publicly listed company has pledged to run its entire operations on renewable energy by the middle of the decade and to make all in-house branded products 100 per cent sustainable.

Woolworths also received backlash from a Melbourne-based anti-alcohol lobby group, over its decision to build a large Dan Murphy’s liquor stores in Darwin within walking distance of three alcohol-free Indigenous communities.

Woolworths has been trying to establish a Dan Murphy’s in Darwin since 2016.

Mr Cairns hit back at the questions posed by Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) during the AGM, claiming Woolworths had consulted Indigenous groups on a new agreed location.

“We have been hugely responsible in meeting with Indigenous people that they highlighted were in danger as a result of this store,” Mr Cairns said.

“We understand that all current objectors will not oppose the new location.”

Mr Cairns said FARE did not speak on behalf of the local Indigenous groups in the region.

“The communities that we have engaged with are resentful of the fact that other people should seek to represent a view which is not theirs,” he said.

Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci also used the meeting to apologise for its staff wages scandal, which resulted in 10 years of underpayments equalling $500 million.

“To date we have repaid $281 million and expect to have repaid all impacted team members for six years covered by the GRIA and HIGA awards by early next year,” Mr Banducci said. “We have also done a lot of work during the year to improve our internal processes to ensure this does not happen again.”

Woolworths expects sales volumes to remain at elevated levels, while coronavirus restrictions remain in place across the country.

“While we don’t like to make predictions, particularly in the current environment, for the rest of the calendar year we expect elevated sales and costs to continue as customers spend more time at home and continue to embrace e-commerce,” Mr Banducci said.

Group e-commerce sales have grown 87 per cent compared to the prior corresponding period, with a number of customers switching to online shopping methods at Woolworths, Dan Murphy’s and Big W during the 2020 lockdown.

Mr Banducci said the pandemic had permanently changed the way people shopped, prompting Woolworths to up its investment in online shopping and fulfilment centres.

“We are seeing a permanent change in customer behaviour as we all increasingly embrace digital and the increasing range of available shopping experiences — from supermarkets to Metro to home delivery to on demand,” he said.

“As part of our ecosystem strategy, we will continue to build on these connected customer experiences as we work hard to meet the evolving needs of our customers.”

Woolworths’ net profit for the 2020 financial year fell 1.2 per cent to $1.6 billion, which was largely due to the $400 million in COVID-19 related costs.

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