‘It was never about sales’: The touching reason Woolworths boss directed produce AWAY from his stores at the height of the panic buying crisis
- Woolworths diverted its suppliers to independent wholesaler Metcash
- CEO Brad Banducci said it was a bid to help remote indigenous communities
- Mr Banducci said his focus was community trust and customer satisfaction
- Josh Frydenberg called Woolworths and Coles CEOs about toilet paper shortage
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The CEO of Woolworths has revealed he directed produce from its suppliers to other stores in a bid to help remote indigenous communities amid COVID-19 panic buying.
As coronavirus infection rates started to ramp up in Australia in March, thousands of nervous customers cleared supermarket shelves of essential goods, with some embroiled in ugly fights to snag toilet paper and hand sanitiser.
All supermarket retailers were forced to bring in buying restrictions in a desperate bid to keep stock levels afloat.
But in an unprecedented move to help vulnerable Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci diverted suppliers to independent wholesaler Metcash.
In an unprecedented move to help vulnerable Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci (pictured) diverted suppliers to independent wholesaler Metcash
Thousands of nervous customers cleared supermarket shelves of necessities such as toilet paper, canned goods and hand sanitiser
‘It was never about our sales, it was about Australia,’ Banducci told the Brisbane Times.
Mr Banducci didn’t want any products to go to waste, despite there being no Woolworths stores in the remote NT region.
As panic buying intensified across the country, Mr Banducci received an unexpected phone call from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
‘He phoned me and asked, ‘what’s going on with toilet paper sales?” It’s not very often the Treasurer phones you in the first instance, and it’s certainly not very often he asks you about toilet paper,’ he said.
Mr Banducci also revealed that Coles chief executive Steven Cain came up with the idea of the Supermarket Taskforce between the competitors as well as discount chain Aldi.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton headed the taskforce, which allowed the supermarket rivals to collaborate legally.
Soon, Mr Cain and Mr Banducci called each other every night for three weeks to share their plans about issues like in-store cleaning and social distancing.
Aldi top boss Tom Daunt and Scott Marshall, Metcash’s chief executive of supermarkets, were also taking part in regular phone calls.
Three weeks into March, when panic buying was at its worst, Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and Metcash all took out full-page ads in the country’s biggest newspapers, calling for calm among shoppers.
Despite the obvious peak in sales, Mr Cain and Mr Banducci said their primary focus was community trust and customer satisfaction.
Despite the obvious peak in sales, Mr Cain and Mr Banducci said their primary focus was community trust and customer satisfaction
‘My metric of success during the course of the crisis was not sales or profit, it was actually doing the right thing, emerging with our reputation enhanced, not tarnished,’ Mr Banducci said.
Kimberly-Clark – who makes 20 per cent of Australia’s toilet paper – was forced to ramp up their manufacturing at the request of retailers trying to keep up with demand.
Doug Cunningham, local managing director, then cut out non-essential products, changed packet sizes and increased its production to maximum capacity.
‘We did that within hours, which is actually unprecedented in our business. Normally it would take a week or so, but we just did it straight away,’ Cunningham said.
Kimberly-Clark – who makes 20 per cent of Australia’s toilet paper – was forced to ramp up their manufacturing at the request of retailers trying to keep up with demand