‘We aren’t trying to “cancel” Australia Day’: Woolworths CEO responds to backlash

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci has asked Australians to “treat our team with the respect they deserve” after he revealed threats against staffers have risen by 50% in the wake of the supermarket’s decision not to sell Australia Day products.

Banducci made the comments on Sunrise this morning, as the supermarket chain launched full-page ads in the major mastheads defending its decision not to stock Australia Day merchandise.

Banducci conceded that the messaging around the supermarket giant’s decision was fumbled, resulting in “unfortunate incidents” of staff being bullying and threatened.

“Given that, I thought it was important to restate our position,” he said of the decision to run the ads.

“We hadn’t stated it as clearly as with should at the beginning. That is the problem going into Australia Day.

“The clear message is: treat our team with the respect they deserve as we go into the week.”

The advertisements feature a statement from Banducci which reads in part:

“We aren’t trying to ‘cancel’ Australia Day, rather Woolworths is deeply proud of our place in providing the fresh food that brings Australians together every day.”

Banducci was further grilled on Today, where host Karl Stefanovic asked numerous times if Woolworths was “anti Australia Day” and “anti Australia as a company”.

“Karl, we are a very proud Australian company,” Banducci responded.

“We’ve been around for 100 years. We have 178,000 hard working team members who are going to be in store doing the right thing for our customers on Australia Day, and we’re passionate about this country.”

Banducci added that January 26 “means different things to everyone”, noting the store will be decorated in green and gold to mark the day. He again addressed the fallout from the decision — which he claims was made a year prior after flagging sale of the flag-splashed merchandise — admitting the messaging was handled badly.

“I think we could clearly have done a better job of explaining our decision, that’s why I’m here,” he conceded.

“I do feel anxious about the impact that this is having on our team. They are proud, hard working Australians, and for them to be seen as anti-Australian or woke is fundamentally unfair.”


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