Shops outgunned in land of the giants
The contrast could not be more stark between Coles' gleaming new supermarket in Gungahlin, the biggest of its kind in Australia, which opens today, and the forlorn aisles of Scullin's handimart in neighbouring Belconnen.
The ACT government's supermarket policy has failed to slow the Woolworths and Coles battle for market share, which is most intense in the territory.
Coles' expanded offering has the biggest gross leasable area in Australia and 4766 square metres of selling area, overshadowing Australia's biggest Woolworths supermarket at Majura Park, which has about 4000 square metres of selling area.
The battling Scullin supermarket, which has a mere 1400 square metres, is the latest local centre to receive a $1.12 million, government-funded makeover.
After opening a pergola, seating, new lighting and toilets yesterday, Member for Ginninderra Chris Bourke said the upgrade would help attract new tenants to occupy some of the vacant and vandalised shops.
Little supermarkets which anchor local centres are waging a losing battle to keep bigger ones out of the suburbs, and now face an even bigger competitor in Coles Gungahlin, which is selling apparel, televisions, mobile phones and $99 multi-touch tablets and opening a huge fresh food section.
Coles store manager Sam Ilott said Gungahlin was chosen for the bigger model store because the new suburbs flooding across Canberra's western fringes were among the fastest growing in Australia.
''We aim to create a market place environment with an in-store experience people can't forget,'' Mr Ilott said.
A wall of nuts where customers weigh and bag produce is part of an expanded fresh food department, which also has a fish monger, new delicatessen and four bakers working from 4am to 7pm.
The car park has been expanded to 570 car spaces and the super store will be courting the community, which several years ago complained of a lack of services and supermarkets.
Coles and Woolworths rapid expansion threatens to cut a swathe through smaller suburban rivals.
IGAs in North Canberra who mounted a losing challenge in the Supreme Court against the government's approval of a bigger Woolworths at Giralang are going to the Appeals Court to try and overturn that decision.
University of NSW's Associate Professor in Business Law Frank Zumbo said Coles' and Woolworths' bigger box developments were just another way to increase dominance. ''Coles and Woolworths are increasingly copying one another and that means less innovation, diversity and consumer choice in the market, especially as they push more and more of their smaller independent competitors out of business,'' he said.
Scullin's new landscape was created by sculptors Geoff Farquhar-Still and Daniel Lorrimer in collaboration with print maker Julian Laffan and fabrication specialist Brian Cropp.
They adopted a pioneer travel theme for the pergola and seating to complement the suburb's street names, honouring Australian aviators.