/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Sainsbury’s starts price matching – here we go again

Hot on the heels of Tesco’s Big Price Drop, Sainsbury’s has announced that it will price match branded items. Are these relentless offers any good for our wallet, or are they just unhelpful and irritating?

Sainsbury’s is rolling out technology that instantly calculates the cost of your basket’s branded grocery goods, compared to the cost of the same branded basket at Asda and Tesco. If Asda or Tesco are cheaper, you’ll receive a coupon equal to the difference (though you’ll have to spend more than £20 and use your voucher within a fortnight).

But are all these price comparison offers actually saving us money and if so how much? When The Grocer looked at a shopping basket of 33 Tesco items after the supermarket’s Big Price Drop, it found that it was actually more expensive than the previous week – before the promotion. There’s nothing to suggest that Tesco is more expensive overall, but it goes to show that these offers aren’t always straightforward.

Tiring supermarket price promotions

Personally, I find the supermarkets’ price comparisons exhausting. I also like to think that they won’t affect my shopping habits either. Am I going to switch supermarkets because Sainsbury’s will give me a 20p coupon? Probably not.

I’m not alone in this view. Earlier this year when we surveyed Which? members, a third said they found price comparison adverts annoying. Nearly four in ten thought they were misleading.

Plus, when we asked whether Tesco’s Big Price Drop would help you save on your shopping here on Which? Convo – 44% of the 1019 voters said they thought it was just a PR stunt.

What do you think of supermarket price comparisons? Do they help keep your costs down or are they just a baffling waste of time?


I’ve had more time last Saturday to pay a further visit to Tesco and look around and had noticed prices have not come down and indeed certain items I regularly buy at supermarkets have gone up in price…nah, shan’t be shopping there in future except to pick up the rotisserie chicken or BBQ spareribs when reduced by 40% or more.

Sainsburys is the priciest of all of the supermarket chains including Waitrose… I never shop there anyway… they were the market leader in terms of sales until the late 1980s or the very early 1990s and you wonder why they have lost the top position.

Shall stick to the German discounters, oriental supermarkets and the occasional Waitrose now that they give a 10% discount across all of my purchases made there for the next four weeks.

“Annoying, misleading, unhelpful, irritating … ”. How about anti-competitive?

Isn’t price matching just the latest manifestation of a price-fixing cartel? Only the big supermarkets can join; there’s no way the local corner shop would be allowed in on the deal. They simply can’t afford it, or leverage the same discounts from suppliers as the major food retailers.

Because a formal agreement to fix prices would be illegal and computer technologies now enable it, supermarket “A” just needs to make a hyped public announcement of reduced prices on a limited range of goods and the others can immediately play catch-up before you’ve had time to finish your weekly shop.

This gives the illusion of a healthy, competitive market. But if you stop and think for a minute, in a functioning marketplace, supermarkets would actively try to undercut each other, not just sell at the same price.

Although they will never be the cheapest, I also commend Waitrose on a helpful gesture – 10% off ANYTHING I want to buy in their store for the next 4 weeks. Now that’s proper competition.

Russell B says:
26 April 2012

I asked the very same question in Waitrose yesterday.

How can 5 supermarkets be selling different brands of Butter, Jam, Beer and Crisps all at the same price on the same day.

Price fixing is illegal. The only way all 5 supermarkets can charge the same and have printed details in their shops in advance is to be in collusion with each other.

The store manager claimed the suppliers set the price – oh, yeah, was that a pig flying by!!!!

I buy certain things in most of the supermarkets, including Aldi and Lidl, but don’t pay much attention to price matching. I shop mostly in Sainsbury because it’s convenient, but every 6 weeks or so I do an on line shop with Tesco because round here they are the best at it (in my experience).. Our local Sainsbury are expanding and during the works they have been sending me discount vouchers for £13 per shop . I’ve had 8 or so of these, and they have been very helpful.. I also collect Nectar points. Today I got a coupon for £2.98 because of their new price matching. That’s fine with me, and I didn’t have to do anything. 10% discount in Waitrose is great – except the goods were probably 10% more to start with. I find all supermarkets are good for some things (like Aldi for offers on technical equipment) and shop accordingly whenever possible. I do worry slightly about rising prices and whether the main supermarkets are really competitive, but hopefully the likes of Aldi and Lidl will help to keep prices at a reasonable level.

I do most of my shopping at ASDA. Have tried all the others except Morrisons (as there is not one close.) Waitrose and Sainsburys are the dearest but I notice food prices are going up all the time in all of them. The cost of fresh meat is now beyond my purse and have had none for some months.
Are we doomed to third world rations?

Christine Murphy says:
15 October 2011

The Sainsbury’s price match is good – received a voucher today at the end of my shop and didn’t have to do anything myself unlike other price match offers where you have to do the work yourself.

But you do have to look after the voucher, and remember to present it when you next(?) shop at Sainsbury’s. I expect the original T&C’s read something like this, before the Marketing Department got their hands on it:

“This is an IOU for [amount]. We’ve overcharged you for your shopping today, but if you’d like to give us some more money next week, we’ll give you a refund that will make our previous price more competitive – as long as we haven’t withdrawn the offer. And for those of you that don’t shop here regularly or lose the voucher – tough luck, you’ve just overpaid for your goods! Thank you for shopping an Sainsbury’s.”

It’s OK for loyal Sainbury’s shoppers who can keep track of bits of paper, but not the rest of us. I prefer money off – I can spend it where and on what I like.

I do most of my shopping at Morrisons because it is the closest supermarket to where I work. I do find the quality of their products very good and the prices seem to be a lot cheaper than Tesco or Sainsburys. I do not shop at Marks and Spencer or the Co-op as the prices are well above what I am willing to pay.
I shop at Home Bargains for coffee and sugar and squirty cheese spread as these items are always cheaper there than anywhere. Sometimes I travel further afield and visit Aldi and/or Iceland but they are about half an hour’s walk from where I live and then I take a taxi home if I have bought too much to carry. What I don’t like is such as Tesco has Tesco Metro and Tesco Express and prices are different in both, this practice should be outlawed. If supermarkets stopped trying to win a ‘competition’ with other supermarkets and no longer displayed offers which are not as good as they at first seem and just reduced their prices so it is easier for ordinary people to compare, the shopping experience would be better. Also I would rather have cheaper prices all the time than loyalty points.

Both Tesco’s Express and Metro cater to a slightly different clientele by and large,
hence a difference in price on certain identical stems stocked…. even in different
Metros within same outer London borough is there a variation in price.

The very same old premises where Safeway/ Morrisons used to trade since the
mid-80s had been taken over by Tesco and had been for quite some years and
business seems profitable enough for them, I guess, unlike in the case of S/M
who left.

The variation in prices in stores within the same supermarket group extends to
various supermarkets I’ve come across including, believe it or not, Lidl.

Correction re previous, items not stems.

I am a regular shopper at Sainsburys as it is the nearest most convenient supermarket – It is easy to look after the voucher – and so I get a “refund” without problems. I prefer Sainsburys quality for virtually all goods and food – except fruit (as it is often not ripe enough) But this is easily overcome as my “corner shop” always sell riper fruit. I can’t see the point of “shopping around” if – as in my case – it would add miles and hours on my shopping without significant increase – even a decrease – in shopping quality.

Stuart says:
16 May 2014

I regularly shop at Holland & Barrett but am increasingly frustrated by the way that products are labelled and marketed. At the moment, they are running a “penny sale” whereby certain items so marked cost a penny if bought with another similarly marked product. At the same time some items are marked “buy one – get one half price.” Both of these offers are running in the store at the same time, and also most prices for regular items are currently greatly increased – take flame raisins for example are marked at £1.79 a packet – but one get one half price. It is left to the consumer to work out whether this is cheaper than the usual price of £1.25 (of course it isn’t).

How do I complain to about this policy>? Surely, consumers are entitled to know the “normal” price and the unit price?

The mark up on items at Tesco are now making it impossible to shop there anymore when on a pension, everytime you go there the prices have risen on normal everyday items, price matching a stunt as another name I feel for price fixing.