Finance Consumer Dick Smith’s big Aldi deception

Dick Smith’s big Aldi deception

Dick Smith
The devil is in the detail: Dick Smith is worried Aldi is taking money away from Australians. Photo: AAP
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Those damn conniving Germans! Getting us trusting Aussies addicted to their cheap Bavarian sausages and Black Forest cabbage and clunky-Fräulein footwear.

As Dick Smith sees it: Aldi has got Australia by the short and curlies. It seeks world domination.

Just look at what they’ve done to poor old Dick! Aldi has forced him to abandon his bonzer line of patriotic breakfast cereals and spreads – good old Ozemite! – that he proudly badged with flags but didn’t actually manufacture.

While relatively few of us ever ate Dick’s products for breakfast, the important thing is that he’s a grade-A shameless Australian and those Germans … are Germans who have “basically forced us out of business.’’

Last month, a moaning Dick told News Limited that Dick Smith Foods once had an annual turnover of $80 million, and that it had shrunk to $16 million – melted away, much like the iceberg he famously towed into Sydney Harbour more than 30 years ago as an April Fool’s Day prank. Dick’s always been good for a laugh. Perhaps too good.

The problem is – and what bothers Dick the most – is that that according to the latest Roy Morgan Net Trust Score survey, Aldi has knocked of the holy Flying Kangaroo to become Australia’s most trusted brand. And yet all they do, Dick suggests, is take, take, take.

Aldi will hope to attract cash poor households with its cheap 'private label' groceries.
Dick Smith believes Aldi is ruining Australian businesses. Photo: AAP

So what if in 2016 Aldi paid Australia $123 million in taxes – and appears to have been paying about 30 per cent in tax for at least eight years?

So what if last year Aldi – but not the likes of Google – signed the Federal Government’s Tax Transparency Code, and has since published a tax contribution report on its website?

Those bloody Germans. Coming down here in 2001 and opening two stores in the boondocks and craftily building up the enterprise to a national affair that employs 11,500 Australians and “partners’’ with 1000 Australian suppliers – according to a company statement full of inconvenient facts, offered to rebut Dick’s angry claims.

Does Aldi – which in 2014 enjoyed $5.8 billion in sales, up $1 billion on the previous year – have a grand plan to dominate the market? Probably. Which supermarket chain doesn’t?

The real crime of Aldi is that it wants to be liked and trusted. Two years ago, to counter the anti-German whingeing, Aldi ran an Aussie-first TV ad – created in part by theAustralian Made Campaign – to assure customers that it stocked plenty of Australian-made products, notably farm produce.

Which brings us to the unfortunate truth about Dick.

Dick Smith Aldi
Dick Smith announces he will be closing down Dick Smith foods on Thursday. Photo: AAP

In 2002, he granted Sanitarium Health Foods – which is owned by the US-based Seventh Day Adventist Church, and benefited from controversial tax exemptions – a 10 year license to run Dick Smith Foods.

The products were indeed manufactured by local companies such as Bega Cheese, SPC and Golden Circle, and marketed with the Dick Smith logo.

At the time, Dick said he’d made the move to compete with the multinationals, but the purported Aussie-ness of his venture – it’s only real reason for being – was a little tainted.

The fact is, as journalist David Salter noted in a blistering 2012 analysis, to counter Dick’s whingeing at the time: “Smith’s conversion to all things Australian has come somewhat late.’’

The chain of electronics shops that he sold in 1982 for $20 million was mostly stocked with “dirt cheap imports from Asia, thereby helping to put the local electronics manufacturing industry to the sword.’’

As the Germans like to say (pretty much the way Aussies say it): Autsch!

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