The head of one of Australia’s major independent supermarkets has publicly criticised Woolworths, referring to the company as “woke” for its decision to stop selling Australia Day merchandise. JP Drake, who serves as the director of Drakes Supermarkets, voiced his concerns shortly after Drakes unveiled its latest catalogue that featured an “ingredients for Australia Day” section. In this section, various Australia Day merchandise items and food specials on party pies and sausage rolls were promoted.
Just a day after the catalogue’s release, Drake took to social media and posted an image of a “Wokeworths bingo card.” This card included a checklist titled “Woolworths hit list,” with items like Australia Day and the Chinese New Year already marked with a tick. Other events like Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s and Father’s Day were yet to be checked off, according to the supermarket boss.
The following day, Drake shared a detailed statement on Instagram, clarifying that his post was about providing choices to customers. He emphasised that whether individuals choose to celebrate Australia Day or not is a personal decision, and as a retailer, he believed it was his responsibility to let customers decide if a product is suitable for them. He likened it to selling dairy products even if someone is lactose-intolerant, emphasising the importance of choice.
Drake also mentioned the need for a broader discussion about the date of Australia Day but expressed his intention to continue celebrating it on January 26 until the date is officially changed. He concluded by respecting the right of customers to choose where they spend their money and whether they decide to boycott their stores or not.
Woolworths Group confirmed that its supermarket and Big W stores would no longer sell Australia Day merchandise, citing a declining demand as the primary reason. They also noted the ongoing debate about the significance of January 26 to different parts of the community. Despite this decision, Woolworths and BIG W pledged to support Australian farmers, producers, and suppliers.
ALDI quickly followed suit by announcing that it would not stock Australia Day products, while Coles revealed its plan to continue selling a limited range of merchandise in 2024.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called for a boycott of Woolworths over this decision, describing it as an “outrage” and against the national interest. In response, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese criticised Dutton’s comments, calling them an “extraordinary overreach” and highlighting the potential impact on Woolworths employees if such a large-scale boycott were to occur.
Within a week of Woolworths confirming its decision, two of its stores in Queensland were vandalised. One store in Cleveland Central had graffiti reading “Boycott Woolies now … people power … boycott WW” on its windows, while a store in Teneriffe was also vandalised with graffiti reading “5 days 26 Jan Aussie Oi Oi Woolies f*** u” on the side of the building.
Drakes Supermarkets, which operates more than 60 stores across South Australia and Queensland, remains involved in the ongoing debate surrounding Australia Day merchandise.