Easter bun fight

BY Australian Retailers Association
02 December 2015

Steve Plarre, CEO of Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse and a member of the Australian Retailers Association board, has written an open letter to Coles, Woolworths, and Aldi for the second time, asking for their assistance in limiting the sale of Easter Hot Cross Buns to a time frame more relevant to the holiday, as opposed to selling them from January onwards.

It is understood Aldi does not engage in the practice of selling Hot Cross Buns in its stores more than a couple of months out from Easter. At the time of print, Mr Plarre had not yet received a response.

The contents of the letter is as follows:

 

Mr John Durkan, Managing Director, Coles

Mr Brad Banducci, Managing Director, Woolworths Limited
Cc Mr Stefan Kopp, Managing Director, ALDI Australia

OPEN LETTER – KEEPING EASTER SPECIAL

Dear John and Brad,

Last year I wrote to both of your organizations asking that you consider not selling Hot Cross Buns unseasonably prematurely after Christmas. Both of you had someone in your organization kindly respond to my letter for which I’m grateful. Yet, it still disappoints me to think my young daughter & I will be walking the supermarket aisles after Christmas again this year only to see the likes of Hot Cross Buns already on sale.

You both suggested that you are simply providing to your customers what they want. To be clear, I don’t for a second want anyone to neglect their commitment to their customers but I would like to challenge the premise that your customers, on the whole, really want you to sell Hot Cross Buns so far out from Easter.

While Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses is not huge like you are, we were dishing up Hot Cross Buns to Aussies before either of you opened your doors. Over the last 114 years we have baked millions & millions of buns and never once had an angry Hot Cross Bun-craving customer demand them any earlier than 6 weeks out from Easter.

There will of course be some customers who would gladly eat Hot Cross Buns all year round but I truly hope you’re not relying on these customers to justify your notoriously early start to the bun season.

Like most Australians I grew up around Coles and Woollies and know how valuable your stores are to our communities. You never had buns on the shelves so early when I was a child. Easter and all of its wonderful celebration, regardless of religious leanings, seemed to occur with an intensity that now feels diluted as a result of it being so “promotionally stretched”.

Between Christmas and Easter we have the wonderful celebrations of Australia Day and Valentine’s Day to enjoy. Honestly, do you really think it would hurt to leave your bun selling until at least after Valentine’s Day? Commercially it makes zero difference to my family’s business and I know many others who agree, including the national baking associations of Australia and even Britain who I’ve personally spoken with about this issue.

And finally, on the raw issue of just pure commercial sales and profit, I still don’t get it. Are you really suggesting that customers who are in your shops from Boxing Day until closer to Easter will buy fewer items because they can’t get a Hot Cross Bun? You sell fruit buns. You sell fruit loaves. These customers will simply buy something else to satisfy their appetite like they do throughout the rest of the year. You may even find that by honoring the timing of Australian cultural celebrations they command greater excitement in your stores when you do finally put products on sale.

Ultimately though, this is just my opinion as a father and a baker but one that I believe is echoed by a very significant portion of the population and every non-supermarket bakery I know. If you remain unconvinced then maybe you could simply survey your Facebook fans. I see that between you you have over 1.6 million fans and it’s a simple enough process to run a non-biased poll.

Like you, I feel like I’m acting in the best interests of not only my customers but a lot of Aussie families out there. Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses will start selling Hot Cross Buns on the 15th of February 2016, exactly 6 weeks out from Easter Sunday. Internally we call this our “Hot Cross Bun Day”. We invite you to do the same.

I realise this is a tiny issue in the pantheon of problems you address daily, but with your combined clout you can make a genuine difference to making the Easter season more special, without disappointing customers or suppressing sales.

Please, please, please don’t dismiss this. We live in a magnificent country and it is all the better for our ability to keep special those things that we hold dear to our families and friends. I’d really appreciate a response at your earliest convenience.

Kind regards,
STEVE PLARRE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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