Foot soldiers in the supermarket price war

supermarket trolley with money off stickerAs the grocery discounters make greater headway in to our food spend the Big Four supermarkets continue to tell us that they are cutting prices lower than ever before.

A veritable snow storm red tickets on the heavily stacked shelves desperately try and persuade us that the prices we are seeing are all seriously reduced (honest).
But as last night’s “Dispatches” on Channel 4 (and Money Fight Club’s regular research) shows, this is all a load of hokum.

  • Shareholders are still the priority.
  • Supermarket customers are just cannon fodder.
  • We all need to teach them a lesson and boycott their trickery.

But don’t automatically assume that discount supermarkets provide bargains all the way. Their own-brand foods and cleaning products will tend to be lower than the Big Brands and the products of the Big Four, but you can’t afford to leave your scepticism at home. You may pay a lot more if you buy branded goods in a discount store and you also need to check how much the own-brand packs and cheaper alternatives actually contain.
There is nothing for it but we all need to learn the prices of the things we buy regularly and refuse to buy at higher prices. The ups and downs of prices, the discounts, multibuys and offers are all meant to confuseus. There can be no other explanation for them.
One week the mayonnaise is £3.60 and the next it is £2….and they hey presto it is back to £3.60 again. It allows the stores to say the lower price is a big discount on the normal price. Most shoppers would be better off if it was always £2.80. And to make it worse, the special offers of two for £3 or two for £5 have confusing price per gram labels on the shelf edges.
Those with large storage capacity and deep pockets can buy in bulk when cheap offers are made but for most the mayonnaise seems to run out in the fridge at home at exactly the time when it is most expensive in store. Sometimes you can spot price trends in terms of when high and low prices are more likely to occur, but this can be tricky.
Remember it is cheapest to shop where there is competition and if you have the time, spread your favours around the food retailers. Small local shops are often cheaper for fruit, veg, meat and fish and you can buy the exact quantity you need (avoiding the packaging as well as fresh stuff going off before it’s all been consumed).

As Harry Wallop, the journalist behind last night’s Dispatches explains: “The weekly shop at the big out-of-town supermarket seems to be over. The trip that many of us took with our mothers, piling up a trolley with a week’s worth of corn flakes, evening meals and washing powder on a Saturday morning, just does not happen for millions of households.
“The desire to shop around to hunt for a bargain came about because of the recession. But even though the economy is improving, many shoppers have kept the habit.”

We’re foot soldiers in the supermarket price war – but we don’t have to be casualties. No way.

The supermarkets need to win our trust and they are a long way from doing that. The food shop revolution at least ensures they don’t make fat profits while we’re waiting for them to improve.

Harry Wallop – loyalty to supermarkets is dead
Our open letter to the new boss of Tesco