For the second time in as many weeks I’m giving good news – no sooner had we redoubled our efforts to get supermarkets to display clearer unit pricing than two major supermarkets stood up to the challenge.
Morrisons has said it will start rolling out clearer and more consistent unit pricing labels, meaning that when you’re choosing between two similar products you’ll be able to tell at a glance which one represents the best value.
This is really important given that people all over the country are struggling with their budgets – we need to be able to tell whether a special offer genuinely offers better value, so we can get the most for our money.
By the end of 2013, all Morrisons stores will have shelf-edge labels showing a large, clear price per litre or kilo for products, such as in the example to the left. And it isn’t alone – Sainsbury’s has also announced that it’s trialling clearer unit pricing in stores, with the aim of moving to a clearer system.
Two down, more to go
One of the things I’ve learnt in the last (almost) two years working on Which? Campaigns is that it is really valuable when one or two companies take the lead on something. It’s all very well us calling for simpler energy tariffs or genuinely fixed mobile contracts, but often the thing that prevents change is that the industry cannot see how to make the changes.
We’re met with worries and concerns that if they make the change it will put them at a commercial disadvantage, that the changes are too difficult or expensive etc. But these concerns often melt away when they see that other companies are able to step up to the plate.
The question we’re asking supermarkets changes from ‘could you give us clearer unit pricing?’ to ‘if they can do it, why can’t you?’ And that’s really exciting for campaigners – the domino effect can be powerful – especially in industries where giving customers what they want can have a huge impact on businesses.
Misleading supermarket prices?
By taking steps to implement clearer unit pricing, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are showing that they’ve listened to their customers. Our research, released this week, showed that 74% of people feel misled by supermarket prices. Personally, I’m annoyed that the lack of unit pricing makes it harder to distinguish the genuine deals from the ones that just shout ‘Buy me! Buy me! I’m on special offer!’
Customers aren’t stupid – we’re savvy and getting even savvier as our budgets get squeezed further. We know that somewhere, among all of the big bright ‘2 for 1!’ labels, there are real bargains – the question is just finding them. It seems from our research that people feel these are a little too hidden at the moment, and one of the best ways for a supermarket to show that it is listening to customers is to help them find these deals.
Clearer unit pricing means that you’ll be able to compare like-for-like items (and we’d like this to include all special offers) by weight or volume. You won’t need to choose between a 2-for-1 on 400g of cheese at £3.29 or a cheaper 500g of cheese at £2.10. Unit prices will mean that next to each product there’ll be a clear label saying £4.11 per kilo or £4.20 per kilo. Hey presto – you know which is the better value cheese.
So, this post is partly a celebration and partly a challenge. I’m delighted that one of the campaigns I’ve been working on for months has helped two supermarkets make the right decision on unit pricing – so well done to Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. And I’m perhaps even more pleased that we can extend the challenge further – Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer et al – what are you waiting for? If the others can do it, then why can’t you?