When you stack Coles vs Woolworths, who comes out on top?

Information verified correct on June 30th, 2016

In the great battle of Coles vs Woolworths, finding a winner isn’t easy. We’ve compared the two supermarket chains from every which angle, so you can better decide which you want to shop at.

Who are you loyal to? Coles? Woollies? Neither?

There’s a supermarket war, and everybody’s picking sides. In the Coles vs Woolworths debate, everybody has an opinion. However, unless you have a clear cut favourite, it can be hard to know which supermarket is better for you.

That’s why we’ve pitted Woolworths against Coles in every which way, to find out once and for all who the winner is.


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Coles vs Woolworths prices: which one is cheaper for everyday items?

We looked at a few everyday household items to see where the cheapest place to buy them from was.

ProductColesWoolworths
nutella
Nutella 220g
$3.80 ($1.73 per 100g)$3.82 ($1.74 per 100g)
twinings-black-tea
Twinings Black Tea Earl Grey Tea Bags 10pk 20g
$2.39 ($11.95 per 100g)$2.68 ($13.40 per 100g)
helgas-grain-bread-soy
Helga’s Grain Bread Soy & Linseed
850g $5.39 ($0.63 per 100g)750g $5.39 ($0.72 per 100g)
vegemite
Vegemite
380g $6.99 ($1.84 per 100g)280g $5.36 ($1.91 per 100g)
healthy-baker-plain-flour-easy-store
Healthy Baker Plain Flour Easy Store 1kg
$3.21 ($3.21 per kg)$3.29 ($3.29 per kg)
bananas
Bananas
$0.63 each$0.54 each
dairy-farmers-permeate-free-reduced-fat-light-milk
Dairy Farmers Permeate Free Reduced Fat Light Milk 2 litre
$3.99 ($2 per 1 litre)$3.99 ($2 per 1 litre)
huggies-girls-nappies-walker
Huggies Girls Nappies Walker
$17 ($0.53 each)$15.04 ($0.68 each)
earth-choice-dishwashing-liquid
Earth Choice dishwashing liquid 900ml
$5.71 ($0.63 per 100ml)$5.75 ($0.64 per 100ml)
schmackos-straps-with-real-beef-dog-treats
Schmackos Straps with Real Beef Dog Treats 180g
$4.95 ($2.75 per 100g)$5.54 ($3.08 per 100g)
TOTAL
$25.9
$28

The result? Coles beats Woolworths hands down, with this shop coming in just over $2 cheaper. However, there’s a few things to take away from this:

  • While products often look like they’re the same price, there are a few instances of Woolworths stocking a slightly smaller product, bringing the price per 100g up, and ultimately making you pay the same price as Coles but getting less in return.
  • The price of a banana at Woolworths was significantly cheaper than the price of a banana at Coles. These prices were taken on September 9, 2014, and prices of fresh fruit and vegetables are subject to change with the seasons.
  • Keep an eye out for specials of products you purchase often. If your favourites are on special frequently, you’ll save money over the long term.

Coles vs Woolworths in-store and online

That's all fine for online shopping, but what about the difference between purchasing an item online or in-store? Do you have a pay a premium for the ability to be served by an actual person or to have the convenience of online shopping?

Woolworths

As of March 2016, Woolworths ditched discriminatory prices between its online and physical store prices. Prior to this, it was charging online purchases more than what was being advertised in-store.

Coles

At the time of writing, Coles does charge a slight premium on some of its items (customers have noticed anything from 3-7% increases in the past) for the convenience of being able to order its products online and have it delivered to your home. Certain items however, like its specials and promotions may align with in-store prices.

The winner: Woolworths wins, so long as it's online shopping you're after.


Coles vs Woolworths delivery

How can you get free delivery?

If you order your groceries online, it’s all about the free delivery. So which one will keep getting your food order to you for less?

Woolworths
Your first three Woolworths deliveries will be free of charge. After that, they’ll only be free for orders worth $300 or more.
Coles:
You can get your first Coles delivery free with a coupon code. After this, you can get free delivery on orders of $100 or more when you pay with a Coles Mastercard (excluding tobacco products).

The winner: Woolworths, for number of free deliveries. However, if you have a Coles MasterCard, then Coles is the winner for you.

Who charges more for home delivery?

Free delivery aside, how much are you paying when that option runs out?

Woolworths
Woolworths charges based on the amount of your order, starting at $11 for orders up to $149.99, and going to $3 for orders between $250 and $299.99. As stated above, delivery is free for orders over $300.
Coles:
Coles charges based on the time of day you select to have your delivery arrive. It ranges from $13 for the most popular times, to $8 for the least popular.

When will I get my delivery?

Woolworths
Woolworths offers a next-day delivery service. Orders made before 6pm can be delivered in the morning the next day. Orders made before 11pm can be delivered in the afternoon or evening. For a Sunday delivery to Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland or Northern Territory, you must complete your order before 3pm on Saturday. Sunday orders to New South Wales need to be completed by 5pm on Saturday.
If you're ordering to an address in any of the following locations, you'll need to order before 6pm the day prior for deliveries Monday to Saturday, and before 5pm for a delivery on a Sunday: Coffs Harbour, Taree, Forster, Tweed & Surrounds VIC: Shepparton & Surrounds, Bendigo QLD: Magnetic Island, Macleay Island, North Stradbroke Island, Russell Island, Lamb Island, Karragarra Island.
Coles:
Coles deliveries can be made the next day to metro areas. If you'd like your order to arrive before 2pm, you'll need to make sure you complete your online order before midday the day before. If you're happy to receive your items in the afternoon or evening, then you'll just need to order before midnight.
Customers looking for delivery to the Whitsundays region will need to order before 9am for next day delivery, and cannot receive orders on a Sunday. Orders to remote locations within the Northern Territory will take four days to deliver, with an order cut-off time of 10pm. Far North Queensland deliveries will take five days  to deliver, with an order cut-off time of 10pm.
 
Looking to get your delivery quicker?

If next day delivery is too soon, check our providers like Shopwings. They work with grocery stores like Coles and can deliver your order between the hours of 8am and 10pm within two hours of ordering.


Coles vs Woolworths credit cards

Naturally, both of the shopping giants have credit cards to reward your loyalty to their supermarkets and affiliates. But which one is the better deal?

Coles Rewards MasterCardWoolworths Money Everyday Platinum MasterCard
Earn  flybuys points for every dollar spent.Earn  flybuys points for every dollar spent on Woolworths select products,  points for every dollar spent on regular brands stocked at Woolworths, and  point for all other everyday purchases.
Excludes cash advances, balance transfers, business purchases, reimbursements, and credit card fees and charges. Cannot be earned at Coles Express, Coles Local, or Coles Online. Cannot be earned when purchasing tobacco products or gift cards.Excludes business expenses, cash advances, balance transfers, and interest free promotions.
When you earn 2,000 points, you’ll get $10 off your next grocery bill.When you earn 4,000 points, you’ll get a $20 gift card.

For more information on interest rates, annual fees, and bonus points, read our comprehensives comparison of Coles & Woolworths Credit Cards.


Coles vs Woolworths payment options and gift cards

When it comes to payment options both stand on pretty even ground allowing you to purchase using all major credit cards but there are a few subtle differences.

Coles. Coles accepts credit card payments and EFTPOS on delivery. All purchases online are eligible for flybys points and are eligible for team member discounts however you won't be able to redeem Coles Myer gift cards on your online purchases. You will need to go in-store to redeem any cards you might have.

Woolworths. Woolworths accepts payments by credit card or gift card. All purchases online are eligible for Wooloworths Rewards. There is no field for team member discounts at the time of writing.

The winner? A bit of each, really. Depending on how you wish to pay for your purchase either might be suitable for you.

It might be interesting to note here that if you purchase Woolworths Wish cards from dealers that offer 5% off (e.g. NRMA) it might be a bonus incentive for you to pay for your purchases this way.


In the media: which scandals are the biggest?

It seems that every few months the media turns its gaze to the grocery giants. And so they should. Australians spend $59.45 billion every year at Woolworths and Coles combined, according to a Roy Morgan analysis released in February 2014.

In September 2014, Coles was banned from advertising its fresh bread for three years, after a court found that the bread was anything but. While both the ‘Cuisine Royale’ and ‘Coles Bakery’ breads were advertised as “Baked Today, Sold Today” or “Freshly Baked In-Store”, it was found that the bread had been partially baked months earlier overseas.

Apart from abstaining from advertising this, coles also has to display a Corrective notice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) explaining their wrongdoing. Ouch.

Woolworths is not adverse to its own scandals, however. Back in June they were accused of imposing a mandatory 40c-per-crate levy on growers to fund their Jamie Oliver-led marketing campaign. Woolworths spokesperson Russell Mahoney hit back, explaining that the contribution was “entirely voluntary,” and that “around half of our suppliers chose to work with us on the campaign which benefits the whole fruit and vegetable industry.”

But it all comes to a head in the 2011-2012 milk wars. It began when Coles slashed the price of its two-litre home brand milk to $2 (down from $2.41), in a bid to gain market share over Woolworths. In 2013, this went down to just $1.

Who paid the biggest price? Australian dairy farmers, who described it as a “slow cancer”. After they lodged a formal complaint, the ACCC investigated a Coles social media campaign and found them to be making claims using data that directly contradicting existing studies.

In March 2014, The Australian warned that another milk war could be looming, as demand for dairy products increases and local suppliers look to expand their export businesses.


Who’s tackling the problem of caged eggs and animal cruelty?

Woolworths! In 2013, Woolworths pledged to phase out caged eggs, with all stores no longer selling caged eggs by 2018. The move was applauded by the RSPCA, although as any consumer knows, trying to determine which free range eggs are best in terms of humane treatment of hens is still a misleading process.

In October 2012, Coles announced it would stop selling company-branded caged eggs. There is no word yet on any plans to stop stocking caged eggs from other brands.

Alex Bruce-Smith

Alex Bruce-Smith is a publisher at finder.com.au, taking care of shopping & travel. She funds her addiction to online shopping by hunting coupon codes like a pro, and can usually be found waiting anxiously for a package to arrive. #notevensorry

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9 Responses to When you stack Coles vs Woolworths, who comes out on top?

  1. Default Gravatar
    Di | May 12, 2016

    Is it just me or has the quality of the meat & fresh produce at Woollies deteriorated over these last few months?
    I have bought the MSA steaks in past & it was delicious, now it is tough & flavourless. The fruit & veg has been particularly bad for a long time.
    I really begrudge buying food only to chuck it out.

  2. Default Gravatar
    Regan | March 1, 2016

    I’m an avid Coles shopper – I prefer their selection and even though maybe 3-4 sale items may be cheaper at woolies, the majority of what I purchase is much cheaper at Coles. Frozen food tuna mornay mcains is still over $6 at woollies (sometimes on sale) but the normal price is $4.50 at Coles. I’ve also had a couple very very bad experiences with woollies online, having all my necessities not in stock and also still charging me and not telling me they didn’t send them – I had to call to say they didn’t send them but still charged me and they refused to send the items leaving me without milk for my son,..
    BUT… Their sales technique of doing the dominos and now the Disney cards finds me happily sometimes paying more and swallowing my pride to shop there to get these free rewards and Coles has nothing of the sort.
    I know I’ve fallen for a technique that was implemented exactly to make me shop there, but it works! My son is obsessed! And so is most of my work colleagues even!
    Coles should really come up with some sort of inventive to shop there to compete… My local shops has both grocery stores, and while this promotion is on for a couple months I swap to woollies.

    • Staff
      Sally | March 2, 2016

      Hi Regan,

      Thanks for your feedback.

      Have you considered signing up to the Coles flybuys program?

      This could help you earn rewards as you’re spending at the supermarket.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  3. Default Gravatar
    Tutu | November 9, 2015

    Woolworths is actually cheaper than Coles on most items from my experience whether purchasing in-store or online. I find that woolies stocks a wider variety of items and brands of products than Coles. It is way easy navigating their alleys compared to Coles. I also like the arrangement of their fresh food section, their fruits and vegetables are usually fresh which I like. The only problem I have with woolies now is that you can buy groceries whether 1 or 1,000, without earning ‘any’ reward at all,(Woolworths dollars), if your shopping does not include any orange sticker item(s).
    At the moment, you can still earn qantas points on all products but thats ending in December.
    Soon u won’t be earning anything for shopping that does not include orange sticker items. No matter how much you spend.
    This is not a fair way to reward loyal customers (like me). At least with Coles (though more expensive on most items) ‘every’ item you purchase gets you a reward in form of flyby points,which you can redeem.

    • Staff
      Alex | November 9, 2015

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your comments. We’ll take a look into the updates that Woolworths has been making and update this page accordingly.

      Thanks again,
      Alex

  4. Default Gravatar
    Leonardo | September 23, 2015

    I liked your article.
    I’ve lived in Australia for 4 years, and returned to my country in 2012.
    For me, there were both good.
    Somehow I’ve always had the impression that coles was cheaper, but nothing really significantly.

  5. Default Gravatar
    Rayon | April 29, 2015

    I find this very hard to believe. The prices are not really comparable unless you go to a shopping centre with both supermarkets as they are directly competing.
    It also depends if you prefer to buy generic branded products, as Woolworths Homebrand and Select are cheaper than Coles Smart Buy and Coles brand, and also cheaper than Aldi.
    And in cases like the vegemite where you are comparing smaller sizes, you should have looked at the largest jars in each store to ascertain the value, as it is widely known that if a product is smaller the value is not the same.
    I have never had any experience of Coles being cheaper, Woolworths has over 200 more stores than Coles, and hence has greater purchasing power.

  6. Default Gravatar
    confused | April 6, 2015

    How do you come up with Woolworths as being the better choice in terms of animal welfare?
    According to the RSPCA website, Coles has animal welfare approved eggs, pork and chicken (I didn’t look up the turkey) products. Woolworths only has some chicken products.
    Who cares what they’re planning in 3 years?

  7. Default Gravatar
    Derham | March 21, 2015

    I have just done my woolworths online shopping from Sydney to Melbourne I am 5 minutes away from bayside Coles but your trading hours 10 pm I always miss the store if you were open 24/7 I could come I’m and bye but I can’t home delivery Coles or woolworths
    I just want my weekly food I’m single fresh fruit meat and dairy chocolates iceceam. and toiletries it pretty simple my debit card

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