Woolworths: Everything you need to know

At the beginning of 2020, Woolworths claimed the title of Australia’s most valuable brand, and in May this year, it also took out the accolade of the second most trusted brand in the country, according to a Roy Morgan report. Not bad for a company that just a few months earlier admitted to underpaying around 6000 staff for around a decade, resulting in owing workers around $300 million.

So, what changed? Coronavirus. “It’s only a few weeks since we were in lockdown and desperately trying to get to the supermarkets for essentials,” explained Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine. “And despite accusations of price gouging, delivery problems, and supply chain failures, Woolworths rode the storm best and came out really trusted by Australians. It was on the front foot from the outset and that appears to have resonated with Australians.”

People shop at a Woolworths supermarket in Sydney on March 17, 2020. Photo: Getty

We take a look at the history of Woolies, and what it offers customers today.

When was Woolworths founded?

When Woolworths was founded by five Australian entrepreneurs in 1924, it was called “Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement.” Situated in Sydney’s Pitt Street’s Imperial Arcade, it was innovative in its approach, and in 1926 installed receipt printing cash registers – the first store of its kind in the world to do so. Two years later it opened a shop in Brisbane, and then one in New Zealand in 1929. By 1940 there was a Woolworths in every state in Australia. In the 1970s, they started to open Big W stores as well, and when they bought Safeway in 1985 they became Australia’s largest food retailer. Today they run 995 stores across Australia and have 115,000 employees. Its head office is in Bella Vista, in NSW.

Who owns Woolworths?

Woolworths is owned by the Woolworths Group Limited, which is the second largest company in Australia, after Wesfarmers, who has a part-share in Coles.

When did Woolworths ban plastic bags?

In June 2018, Woolworths banned the use of single-use plastic bags. Shoppers were – and still are - encouraged to buy re-usable bags instore for 15c each, or bring their own from home. Coles did the same thing, but began handing out reusable bags for free, saying they needed to give shoppers time to adjust, which Greenpeace deemed as irresponsible. For a while, Woolworths also trialled paper bags which were available at 20c each.

Woolworths banned the use of single-use plastic bags in June 2018. Photo: Getty

Are Woolworths shares going up or down?

At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020, Woolworths shares were higher than they’d been in three years. As of June 2020, they have lost a fifth of their value, compared to Coles losing just a tenth. In June, they announced they would give more than 100,000 employees $750 in shares to thank them for working throughout the pandemic.

Do Woolworths do home delivery?

Yes. There is free delivery on all orders over $300, or it costs $15 for orders up to $100 to be delivered. If you subscribe to Delivery Unlimited for $15-$19 a month you can get as many deliveries over $100 as you like, with seniors eligible for 10 per cent off the subscription price.

Where does Woolworths meat come from?

100 percent of fresh meat sold by Woolworths is sourced from Australian producers, and 96 per cent of their fresh fruit and vegetables are grown on farms in Australia. Woolworths Own Brand fresh chicken comes from RSPCA Approved farms, and they have committed to making all chicken used as ingredients within Woolworths products RSPCA Approved by December 2020. Woolworths say that they stock locally grown fruit and vegetables in its stores wherever possible.

Where does Woolworths milk come from?

In 2015 Woolworths introduced Farmer’s Own milk which is sourced directly from dairy farms in Australia, with farms in several states. Woolworths Drought Relief milk is also sourced from Australian farms. In July 2019, Woolworths followed Aldi’s earlier announcement and put a 10c levy on its own brand milk, abolishing the $1 per litre price in order to help struggling dairy farmers.

Fridges stocked with milk are seen in a Woolworths supermarket on May 24, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Getty

Where do Woolworths eggs come from?

Woolworths eggs are Australian sourced and in 2015 they stopped selling their own brand cage eggs. However, they still sell cage eggs from other suppliers, although have said they will stop this by 2025, and by the same date they will use only cage free eggs in all own brand products. According to a study by Choice in May 2020, that used the CSIRO Model Code of Practice to monitor whether eggs are truly free range, Woolworths Select free-range eggs do not qualify as truly free range as they come from farms where there are 10,000 hens on a hectare, instead of the required 1500.

Is Woolworths open 24/7?

Despite a ruling that supermarkets and pharmacies in NSW and Adelaide were able to stay open 24/7 during the coronavirus pandemic to make it easier for consumers to buy supplies, most Woolworths are now open from 7am to 10pm. Some stores, such as Skygate Drive in Brisbane, are open 24/7. Find details of individual stores here.

How do I access Woolworths can collection and recycling program?

Some Woolworths offer ‘Reverse Vending Machines’, over-the-counter collection points and automated depots, which allow customers to recycle some containers and get a refund of 10c a container. This includes plastic, glass, aluminium, steel and liquid paperboard which should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached. You will receive a voucher that you can redeem at any Woolworths within the state you got the voucher for, but not at self-serve checkouts. Find your nearest collection point here.

What do I get with Woolworths Rewards?

Woolworths Rewards give you a point for every dollar spent, which you can then use to take money off your shopping. You can also redeem points at Big W, BWS and some Caltex service stations. You can also choose to convert your dollars spent into Qantas Frequent Flyer points.

Can Woolworths rewards cards be linked?

You can’t link or share rewards points that are collected on separate cards, but you can link other Rewards cards to your account if you want to share fuel discounts. To link your cards, log in to your account and go to the ‘cards and accounts’ section. If you want to share points with someone, you can open one account and have two cards so both cards accumulate points on the same account.

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