CROYDON Park resident Lidia Bonanno was always a Woolworths shopper but has turned her back on the supermarket giant.
The mother-of-two now shops at Aldi for essentials and Coles for extras in a routine that she believes saves her family $100 each week.
"It's definitely about the price. What I can't get from Aldi I get from Coles," Ms Bonanno, 38, says toting a small trolley through Ashfield Mall where she could choose from all three of the big supermarket chains.
Like many shoppers to whom Fairfax Media spoke, Ms Bonanno was sharply guided by the prices on offer.
"I think its much cheaper than just buying it all at Woolies."
Woolworths has unsuccessfully battled poor food and grocery sales and on Wednesday chief executive Grant O'Brien paid the price, announcing his resignation after less than four years in the job.
Consumer advocates and retail experts say a string of public relations disasters, refreshed competition and unease about the supermarket's dominance have all contributed to shoppers turning their back on Woolworths.
Retail expert Gary Mortimer, a senior marketing lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, said Woolworths had experienced a tough year.
The failed Anzac fresh food campaign, embarrassing breach of customer data and poorly received new website had put the supermarket in "bad books" with shoppers, Mr Mortimer said.
He also said Woolworths' key competitor Coles had won customers through store refurbishments that added a "bit more theatre" to shopping.
"I suspect what's happened is strategic inertia. The Woolworths business has become so big, so large that its very difficult to remain agile, to be able to move and shift your brand and range and price," he said.
"They have now played for the last few years a catch-up game waiting for Coles to make a move and then replicating it. That's not a very good long-term strategy."
Other Ashfield Mall shoppers seemed most concerned about price.
Several shoppers, like Ms Bonanno, said they would buy goods from more than one supermarket doing a single visit to the mall.
"I shop at all of them and get different things from each. I think Aldi is the cheapest, second best is Coles for value and then last is Woolworths," Strathfield resident Ethel Cossutta said on her way into Coles.
"I don't like mega companies, I like to spread my shopping around. I don't like any of them," said Greg Hattona musician from Summer Hill.
Voting with their wallets
Woolworths sales have been deteriorating with German discount supermarket Aldi and a refreshed Coles nabbing market share.
Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said consumers were clearly voting with their wallet but Woolworths would be able to win customers back with better prices.
Choice's Consumer Pulse Survey in March showed that 75 per cent of Australians were concerned about grocery expenses and value for money was a top priority. A market price survey released this month showed that shoppers could save about 50 per cent on their weekly bill by foregoing leading brands at Coles and Woolworths.
Consumer advocate Christopher Zinn said Woolworths needed to be more proactive in providing benefits for consumers, such as having better instore layout and food labelling. He said consumers wanted value for money not just 'cheap cheap'.
"The thing is that Woolworths is so big, so dominant, so entrenched and so "in our face" that it gave the challengers a chance to say they offered something different," Mr Zinn said.
"It just shows that it actually is the consumer who rules and really (Grant O'Brien) was not able to convince enough consumers they had a great offer."
A Woolworths market update on Wednesday said the Woolworths Group was going through significant strategic change to win back customers.
"Australian Food is on a three-year journey to get customers to put us first consistently and our sales results will be volatile in the short term," Mr O'Brien said in the update. "It will take time for the improvements we have made to convert into sales momentum."