Metcash, who run all the back-office (and sales and marketing) for the independent supermarkets group IGA has launched a bid for Mitre 10, a cooperative group of over 400 hardware stores.
This would mean the three largest supermarket brands, Coles, Woolworths and IGA would now be the dominant players in the Australian hardware market.
In a strategic sense, this opens a significant likelihood of an outcome referred to as mutual forbearance. This has been defined as
“tacit collusion as a consequence of firms competing in many markets and the resulting increase in their interdependence” (Jayachandran, Gimeno & Varadarajan, 1999: 51 as cited here)
Put simply, operating in to parallel competitive spaces means these firms may well realise the futility of excessive competition and seek some stable détente (a.k.a. a Mexican standoff).
It will be interesting to what the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have to say about this one (although it is hard once the horse has bolted).