Friday, September 4, 2009

Woolworths supermarket consolidation an indicator of a move on The Warehouse?

Just to get my mind off problems related to our 3 week old baby girl stranded in Bangkok I thought I would have a go at discussing The Warehouse Group [WHS.NZ] and its possible connection to the strong rumour over the weekend that Progressive, owner and operator of Foodtown, Countdown and Woolworths supermarkets is going to consolidate their 3 brands into their "low-cost" brand Countdown.

Apart from the fact that I don't think it is a clever idea to ditch two great brands I think this process could be significant in the ongoing battle between Foodstuffs and Woolworths Ltd [WOW.AU] - owner of progressive - for control over the Warehouse.

I will tell you why I think this.

In trying to make things less confusing for consumers, by consolidating brands and possibly saving money on admin and other business costs, Woolworth's Oz could be ready to make their play for the red sheds.

With one supermarket brand instead of three, that leaves room for another brand, like a general merchant such as the Warehouse to fill the brand void.

It is a little bit of a leap in thought I know but it makes alot of sense from a brand and business point of view.

There have been some interesting moves by Wesfarmers Ltd [WES.ASX] in OZ lately - Woolworths Oz main competitor - they are the owner of Coles supermarkets and other brands and they are consolidating their food offers to the cheaper end of town as well.

This consolidation towards the bargain end of retailing is a global phenomenon currently, as businesses react to the economic downturn. As The Warehouse is the largest non grocery retailer in New Zealand and consistently its cheapest, as such it would be a perfect fit for Woolworth's Oz bargain priced Countdown food brand.

There are also a number of Westfield Holdings Ltd [WSF.ASX] mall sites in the country with both a Foodtown and a Countdown and presumably there would be a space left empty in some towns for a different store to take its place.

Two distinct brands covering a massive product reach under one company.

Makes sense to me.

Please keep in mind I am a WHS shareholder.

The Warehouse Group @ Share Investor

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