When our shopping centre was partly destroyed by fire and then rebuilt Woolworth's altered their supermarket as well. This happend in two stages. First they acquired all the small shops on one side and, leaving things much as they were before, opened it up so that you could see the outside world. The stock was much the same and in much the same position.
A little later they acquired even more space and major changes occurred. The lay out became entirely different. The lighting, which had been reasonable, grew dimmer. The checkout lanes face towards the rest of the shopping centre but are designed in such a way that they do not look out onto anything except the wall of a shop and a Chinese massage 'parlour'.
The floor area has increased but, strangely, the number of lines appear to have decreased. They have also changed. Now the stock is becoming more and more "WOW" or Woolworth's Own Brand. Understandable? Yes. Desirable? Probably not.
I no longer shop there if I can avoid it. I was never particularly fond of the place but the WOW brand annoys me. It is almost all imported. Is that really necessary? Much of it is imported from Asia, and more specifically China.
I hope I am not a Sino-phobic but importing food from China seems unnecessary. We even import oranges, onions and potatoes and other greengroceries from China although we also grow them in South Australia and elsewhere. We bring in tinned goods, jam and other consumables as well. They are all things that we can manufacture here.
The balance of trade demands it? I doubt this in respect of food. It is a miniscule part of the Chinese economy. If we ceased importing tomorrow it would make no discernible difference to them. They would just sell it on their local markets and for much the same price as the local growers get now.
It is cheaper? I doubt that too. I have noticed only a few cents difference in the shelf price of most goods and the quality is not the same. There is also the issue of the carbon footprint required to get the goods here.
So why do we do it? It would seem that multi-national companies like Woolworths and Coles hold most of the market shares. They can do pretty much as they please. They can ensure shortages and the consequences which go with shortages. They are taking advantage of a law which allows them to claim that something is 'made in Australia' when all they have done is add water and packaged it. We need a change in the law. It is unlikely to happen.
I shop mostly in the opposition. It is South Australian owned and run. They buy local wherever possible. They do have a house brand but there is much less of it and the labelling on it tends to be better. You know where you are with them. The shop is lighter. The stock is more diverse. The place is almost always busy but the staff are friendly.
One of the staff in there yesterday looked at a packet for someone who was asking where it was made. It was labelled, "Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients". When she read it out the elderly man said, "Sounds as if it is made the way we are made."