Bush Orders – bringing competition to remote areas

One of my long-held beliefs is that people who live in rural and remote areas need to support their local businesses, or risk losing them.  After all, city-based people are not going to drive to the middle of nowhere for the privilege of paying higher prices for a restricted range of lower quality goods.  So if those of us who live outside the cities don’t pay up, country businesses will go belly-up.  I’m OK with that, because as far as I’m concerned, the country life is worth the extra expense, especially when you often get to save money in other ways so it balances out.

However, there is a limit.  In Tennant Creek, the sole local supermarket has a captive market which they shamelessly milk for all it’s worth.  A regular fortnight’s shopping at Tennant Creek will cost me at least $800, and that leaves quite a few items that I can’t get at all until I go shopping in Alice Springs.  A comparable shopping trolley full in Alice Springs costs around $500, and includes everything I need.  The quality of fruit and vegetables is highly variable, ranging from OK to inedible, and staples like milk powder and bread are nearly twice the price that they are in Alice Springs.  There have apparently been a number of attempts to start up a bakery in Tennant Creek, but each time the supermarket conducts a price war until the bakery goes broke.  Then the price of bread goes through the roof again.

This is where Bush Orders comes in.  I am a Woolworths customer, so can only talk about their service, but I know Coles do it as well.  Every fortnight I fax a list of what I need to Woolworths in Alice Springs.  The Bush Orders team do the shopping for me, for a $20 fee (which is being scrapped soon) and pack it into boxes.  Meat and bakery items are frozen, fruit and dairy goods chilled, and the rest packed as general goods.  Most times it takes 6 boxes to pack my order (2 frozen, 2 chilled and 2 general).  I then pay $6 per box to have them freighted to Tennant Creek where they are held at the freight depot for me to collect at my convenience.  I could get them delivered to my door, but since I work nights, it’s better if I collect them myself.  Then when I get home, it’s like Christmas!  Everyone is keen to see what came in the boxes.  I’m caught up in it too, even though I placed the order, because the Bush Orders team usually throw in some freebies as well.

So for me, the benefits of Bush Orders are:

  • Avoiding the extortion of a monopoly business
  • Ordering groceries eliminates impulse shopping, as all purchases are planned
  • I can still buy specials, by referring to the specials catalogue online that applies to Alice Springs
  • It saves me having to drive to Alice Springs to buy the items that are not available in Tennant Creek
  • I save the cost of the $20 shopping fee just in the bread, and more than recoup the $48 freight on everything else. On top of that, I save over $200 by not having to drive to Alice Springs.

Disadvantages are:

  • It is hard to explore new items that we might like to try, so this has to wait until we travel to a Woolworths store. I can browse Woolworths online, but not the Alice Springs store.
  • I have to keep money available in my account for up to 3 weeks as it seems to take that long for Woolworths to deduct the payment.  If I change to using a credit card for these purchases, that will eliminate this delay.
  • We end up with a mountain of boxes that need to be disposed of.
  • I like impulse shopping!!  Not that it’s good for me.

Overall then, Bush Orders allows us to enjoy the services, range and quality available from a major regional supermarket for a relatively minor fee.  While I would like to support local business, I cannot support extortion.  I understand that businesses need to make a profit, but they need to understand that we live in a global economy and if they can’t compete, they’re out.  If that means no local supermarket, so be it.  The reality of course is that there will always be a supermarket here, and if a second one opens, competition will bring prices down to a fair level.  The supermarket pay their staff a pittance and don’t open long hours, and freight is very competitive, so that doesn’t justify the high prices.  Therefore I refuse to accept them.  Long live Bush Orders!!

2 thoughts on “Bush Orders – bringing competition to remote areas

  1. So with you on this John. We have been here for nearly three months and have been supporting the local supermarket, but enough is enough!! There prices seem to go up every week and we have got tired of the exhorbitant costs so have this week resorted to Coles on line for our order. Amazing how much further the money goes. We have also noticed a price increase in the local butchery with the arrival of the caravaners and grey nomads, so they are losing our business as well. The locals need to be able to afford to buy the supplies in their own town, and not have to pay artificially high rates when the season starts and the tourists come through!Jenni

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  2. Cheers for the heads up on this John. i am just about to head to Fregon for a nursing locum and will take advantage of this service cheers Bruce

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