While waiting in the checkout queue at my local (Conder) Woolworths on Anzac Day eve, I noticed stickers all around advising that, with effect from that day, the supermarket would henceforth be trading until 10pm seven days, instead of until midnight seven days, as had always previously been the general case.
I checked Woolworths’ website on Anzac Day, and there was no indication thereon of abridged trading hours, so I emailed Woolworths’ central administration, and eventually received a personal reply that some stores in the ACT would close at 10pm at least for the winter period, while several would continue trading until midnight. In fact, a check of Woolworths’ (now updated) website shows that:
- Four of their five northside supermarkets are continuing to trade until midnight (and I don’t know what the previous trading hours of their Charnwood store were).
- All eight of their southside supermarkets are now closing early at 10pm.
After years of general seven-day trading until midnight at their ACT stores (not sure about Charnwood), it makes you wonder why it’s suddenly become unviable now. After all, they still need to keep stores open for shelf-stackers to do their job, don’t they? It seems even stranger why midnight trading would, after all these years, suddenly become a viability issue in a place like the Lanyon Valley (Conder store), where new housing subdivisions are still being built and the population is continuing to grow, not just with new residents moving in, but also with the conspicuous level of procreation there.
It seems to me highly implausible that demand for late-evening shopping would be so different between the northside and southside that it would warrant maintaining the midnight-trading status quo on the northside, while completely closing down trading on the southside early at 10pm — very implausible indeed.
My suspicion is that Woolworths is testing market waters here on the southside to see if it costs them market share to close their stores early — whether southside late-evening shoppers whose nearest supermarket (of the big two chains) is a Woolworths will change their shopping times to fit in with Woolworths, or whether (like yours truly) they will say “Bugger Woolworths” and take their business to Coles instead, at the accustomed time that suits them to shop.
Depending on market response on the southside, Woolworths may well follow up by taking their bat and ball home early across the northside, too.
In a town in which the competition of 24-hour 7-Eleven-style convenience stores is practically locked out, it wouldn’t hurt Woolworths (like Coles) to reciprocate a little and be there for their customers until midnight. For Woolworths to aggressively buy up most of the either-Coles-or-Woolworths supermarket opportunities in Canberra, and then proceed to shut down much (or all) of their local operation early, is in the same dog-in-the-manger league as a television network that buys up the rights to broadcast sporting events, and then won’t broadcast some of them.