Coles says it will lose revenue, not profiteer

KIERAN FINNANE reports

Tuesday June 28

Coles expects to lose revenue as a result of foregoing the sale of cask wine in Alice Springs, says General Manager of Corporate Affairs Robert Hadler, rejecting any suggestion of a profiteering motive for their actions.

He said cleanskin wines were only ever sold at ultra-low prices in short-term promotions and he did not expect much of an impact on revenue from the decision to set a minimum unit price for these wines.

Mr Hadler spoke to the Alice News after he had made contact with Mayor Damien Ryan this morning to discuss last night’s vote in council (see report below). A majority of aldermen supported a motion to ask Coles and other retailers to reverse their decision on the sale of cheap wines in the local market. Mr Hadler says Coles will respond formally once they have received council’s letter.

He says he understands from Mayor Ryan that there are different views held by councillors. He says his company’s “strong view” remains that the initiatives they have taken meet “the needs of their customers” and the company’s “broader responsibility to the community”.

The company took the action because “it was the right thing to do,” after listening to the concerns of community leaders including the Reverend Basil Schild, Dr John Boffa and CAYLUS (the Central Australian Youth Link Up Service, strong lobbyists for substance abuse strategies including the rollout of Opal fuel).

Despite the likely loss of revenue, Mr Hadler says Coles will be comfortable with the outcome “if it helps reduce alcohol harms and abuse in Alice Springs”.

What evidence of this will they look for?

Mr Hadler says Coles expects to visit Alice Springs in the near future to assess the success of the move and whether additional steps need to be taken. He says they will be pleased to meet with the Town Council at this time.

The News asked him about concerns regarding bottles being used as a weapon. He said he could not see that the existing risk would be enhanced by Coles’ actions but the company is prepared to review the decision, in consultation with community leaders and the NT Government, if there are “any unintended outcomes”.

On the impact of their decision on pensioners, Mr Hadler says the company remains committed to providing value for money to all its customers, particularly for low income and fixed income customers and tourists. He believes that bottled wines at $7.99 and one litre casks at $14.99 will meet this demand.

Regarding the suggestion of broader discrimination towards Alice Springs, he says the company complies with a range of regulatory restrictions in other Indigenous areas in the NT and other states. As an example, he pointed to the Casuarina Business Precinct Liquor Accord of which Coles is a signatory. Concluded in April 2011, it commits licensees to “use their best endeavours” to ensure that sale of wine and fortified wine in two litre containers is restricted to one container per customer per trading day and to withdraw from sale “ready to drink products” in units greater than 500 ml.

 

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