Alligator Bite: Wesfarmers Quantum leap: now, they’re into public epidemiology experts

The company behind Bunnings, K-Mart, Officew-, well, everything, has some views on no-retail lockdown – spoiler alert: against. The meeja is happy to share. Why? Because their celebrated corporate health is wholly dependent on consumer capitalism going full-tilt forever.

Leon Gillingham

Amazing isn’t it, how the moment you learn a new word, you suddenly hear it everywhere? That word at the moment is Wesfarmers, the conglomerate that owns among other things Bunnings, Officeworks, K-Mart and Target. So kinda owns you. Wesfarmers Wesfarmers Wesfarmers…you hear it everywhere. The usual explanation for that phenomenon is a sort of neurological echo. The reason this time is less interesting, pure spin. 

Wesfarmers does not like this new DIY Victoria lockdown extension, and they’re saying so. In Nein (ok The Age/SMH) Elizabeth Knight softishly reported that Wesfarmers CEO, Rob Scott’s problem was “while the Andrews government has given various Wesfarmers executives a hearing, they have not been heard.”

Which means ‘not agreed with’. In the usual fashion, a pretty similar article appeared in the Australian the next day (no link), written from the same perspective and wth the same source – a report commissioned by Wesfarmers from Quantum Market Research, long on the psychological benefits of DIY, less focused on the epidemiological effects of strangers mixing in the aisles

Scott had already made a push on this front three weeks ago, as Wesfarmers profits began to slide

Why has a holding company suddenly got such strong opinions on public health matters? Well, not only is the Victorian lockdown hitting their bottom line, but globally, it’s starting to look like a second wave is forming. Which would mean the rest of Australia might be returning to it in 2021. The company is described by salivating stockwatchers as ‘diversified’, but it’s all diversified on one plane – footfall retail, dependent on in-store impulse buying, shopping as leisure. Their solidity is dependent on consumer capitalism going full tilt forever – a solid bet until some dude ate a bat.

Furthermore, Wesfarmers are, paradoxically, a victim of their corporate balance sheet. Their large, ten figure, cash reserves give them a clear moral obligation to keep furloughed staff on payment.

So don’t be surprised if you see further representations from what is basically Big Retail in the weeks to come. Which they have a perfect right to do. Whether the business pages reporting on it will be journalism or stenography remains to be seen….