Coles Group is Australia's second largest grocery and drinks retailer, engaged in a fierce longstanding rivalry with Woolworths. For years the local #1, Coles lost its way in the mid-2000s and was eventually acquired by diversified conglomerate Wesfarmers. However, a complete turnaround took several years to materialise, and progress was further complicated by Wesfarmers' own disastrous attempt to establish a presence in the UK with the acquisition of local home improvement chain Homebase. Shortly afterwards, Wesfarmers announced plans to spin off Coles Group as a separate entity. Wesfarmers retains a 15% shareholding. Independent once more, Coles Group's core business remains food and liquor retail. Coles has more than 800 stores nationally as well as a large online operation, and operates a separate chain of 700 Coles Express fuel and convenience stores (in a partnership with Shell). However despite its dramatically improved performance in recent years, the group continues to lag behind Woolworths with around 28% groceries market share in 2018 (to its rival's 34%). It is generally considered the more mass-market of the two chains, as a result of a traditional emphasis on price cutting. For years, British rock band Status Quo were featured in its advertising, playing their song 'Down Down'. More recently Coles has attempted to move upmarket with a partnership with TV chef Curtis Stone and by highlighting its fresh food offering. Both companies face intense competition from disruptor Aldi as well as from regional specialist IGA. The supermarkets are partnered by a collection of 900 mostly freestanding liquor retail outlets operating under the Liquorland, First Choice and Vintage Cellars banners, as well as Spirit Hotels, a chain of pubs and bars. (Australian pubs traditionally offer accommodation as well as alcohol, and are as a result often classified as hotels). The group also operates Australia's largest loyalty programme, Flybuys, with 8m active members. Steve Cain is group CEO. Combined revenues for the year ending 2018, just prior to the spin off from Wesfarmers, were A$39.9bn.
Capsule checked 17th June 2019
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