Are Woolworths and Qantas really ready to end their marriage?
Woolworths has reportedly considered changing its Everyday Rewards loyalty program, which has about eight million members and generates customer engagement for Qantas Frequent Flyers by having the ability to earn points at Woolworths supermarkets, BWS bottle shops and Big W discount stores.
Shoppers at Woolworths and BWS earn one frequent flyer point for every dollar spent in transactions over $30. At Big W, customers receive one point for every $2 spent in purchases over $30.
The Australian retail leader also offers consumers points-earnings credit cards through Macquarie Bank, which includes a shared Woolworths Money Qantas Platinum Credit Card. In addition, certain Woolworths owned Caltex service stations also offer either fuel discounts or two Qantas points per litre.
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The main feature of the frequent flyer program, the Qantas Loyalty division, has enjoyed six-consecutive years of double-digit growth and reported a pre-tax profit of $315 million during the 2014-15 financial year.
Although Qantas Frequent Flyer memberships have nearly doubled to over 11 million since 2009, Woolworths may look to either scale back or completely end the association with rivals Coles and Aldi taking away part of its customer base.
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Meanwhile, rival Coles just began a deal with Virgin Australia major stakeholder Etihad Airways, which will allow members of Coles’ Flybuys program to earn frequent flyer points as well as credits toward Silver, Gold and Platinum memberships.
Consumers who are members of both flybuys and Etihad’s loyalty program can earn three Etihad Guest tier miles for every dollar they spend at any Coles’ outlet with a ceiling of $2500 tier miles a month, which may assist the Abu Dhabi-based airline increase its presence in the Australian market.
The loss of customers’ ability to receive Qantas points for shopping at Woolies could cause consumers to contemplate taking their business to another outlet.
An analyst at Deutsch Bank anticipates Woolworths will reveal a 0.5 per cent fall in food and liquor sales in its first quarter report, while Coles enjoyed a 4.7 per cent spike in the same sector in the three months for the end of September.
In the end, Woolies decision to cut ties with Qantas may come down to a choice between the possible boost in margins versus the potential loss of customers.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.