Australia : Coles battles to get fresh food back on shelves
One week after more than 640 workers walked off the job at Coles' cold storage facility in Victoria, shoppers at the Wesfarmers-owned chain are still facing large gaps in the dairy and
meat cabinets as the supermarket chain battles to refill its shelves.
The three-day action at Polar Fresh stripped Coles shelves of essential items like milk and forced regular Coles shoppers to top up at arch-rivals Woolworths and Aldi.
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We break down the key statistics of six products from the supermarkets shelves.
Analysts are already calculating the likely cost to the supermarket chain's first-quarter sales amid reports of tough trading conditions in the last quarter of the 2016 financial year.
Sources close to Coles suggest its meat sales over the past 12 months have played a significant role in supporting its broader fresh sales results and these latest stock shortages will potentially hurt comparable sales growth in the first quarter of the new financial year.
"Woolworths has had a tougher time in fresh over the past 12-18 months and meat has been one area where Coles and Aldi have been very competitive," said one retail insider. "And the greater focus on meat at Coles and Aldi ... has helped their over-all fresh businesses.
"Any issues that could impact on supply at Coles supermarkets could have a broader impact across the rest of their fresh business.
"There's nothing here that's going to derail their business but this could be a neat tailwind [for Woolworths] and Coles is going to have to work that little bit harder."
Analysts suggest Coles has already weathered a tough fourth quarter, which many market watchers expect to weigh on its like-for-like sales for the period.
Broker Credit Suisse said a slowdown in broader industry growth as well as Woolworths' reported volume growth in food and liquor sales in June were likely to put pressure on Coles' comparable store growth in the fourth quarter
"Risk is to the downside for our forecast 4Q16 like-for-like sales growth of 3.5 per cent and second-half 2016 earnings before interest and tax growth of 8 per cent," analyst Grant Saligari said.
"We are likely to see lower comparable store sales growth at Coles' food and liquor in fourth quarter 2016."
One significant supplier said on Tuesday he was still struggling to get his product into Coles' distribution centres and, as a consequence, get his brands back onto the supermarket shelves.
Late last week suppliers warned they were facing stock losses worth millions of dollars as well as additional transport costs as shoppers began to report empty supermarket shelves in essential categories such as like milk.
Another supplier said the strike revealed the fragility of Coles' supply chain and the inefficiencies that were the result of its constant cost-cutting.
He compared getting a delivery truck into Coles with squeezing a four-lane highway into a single lane.
"They are just trying to push too much through and forever trying to cut costs."
He said supplier trucks were regularly forced to queue for many hours, delays that were often billed to the producer or supplier.
Polar Fresh management has not made any comment on the impact of the strikes or on its decision to accept almost all of the National Union of Workers' demands, including an average pay rise of 4.75 per cent a year, an agreement that will push the hourly rate to $31 by 2019.
A union spokesman said Polar Fresh workers started returning to work over the weekend but there were still more waiting to be progressively rostered back on.
Coles would not comment on any cost associated with the industrial action so close to its full-year results and a spokesperson said its team was working to get stock back on shelves and back to a normal level as soon as possible.