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Just how much should convenience cost?

Shopping trolley whizzing through supermarket

Do you notice a price difference between what you pay at your supermarket’s ‘mini me’ vs its bigger sibling? It’s a little bug bear of mine and an issue Channel 4 Dispatches explored tonight…

As some of you may know from my previous posts, I’ve been shopping at my local independent stores for a while because I find it cheaper than shopping in supermarkets. I have to be pretty well planned to manage my food this way and do my best to avoid the temptation to pick something up at a mini supermarket – particularly when I’ve run out of my five-a-day.

Tonight’s Dispatches documentary explored the price difference between shopping at a supermarket’s local store and one of its bigger branches. While there may be justified reasons for higher prices in convenience stores (higher rents per square metre and more complex distribution) I think it strengthens our call for unit pricing to be clear and consistent.

Buying loose or by the bag?

The unit price is the price by weight or volume that lets you compare the true cost of products, even if they come in different sizes. For instance, a bag of three mixed peppers may be 55p each or three loose peppers at £1.35 per kilogram.

Now, if both lots of pepper had a clear unit price – ie the price per kilogram – the unit price would do the maths for you and you’d be able to pick the bunch that offered the best deal.

Food prices are a big concern for shoppers. Which? research shows that three quarters of people are worried about rising food prices, and more than half compare prices now more than ever when out shopping for food.

Shouldn’t it be straightforward for us to compare the price of food based on the amount we want to buy? At the moment, it’s harder than it should be for shoppers to make informed choices because this information isn’t always consistent or easy to see. We’re working to change the law to make it easier.

Not so special offers

One of these changes includes calling for unit prices to be displayed on products which are on offer – an area currently exempt from the law. And we can easily be lured into special offers, whether we’re in a convenience store or larger supermarket. As commenter Fill told us on a previous Convo, these special offers aren’t always what we bargained for:

‘The other great thing about unit pricing is it sometimes shows the irony of a special offer or multibuy still not being cheaper than some other pack size.’

So, do you use convenience stores when you’ve run out of basics? Are you tempted to pick up more than you bargained for? How do you keep the fruit and veg bowl full when you’re midway through a week’s shop?

Comments
Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I have always supported clear and consistent unit pricing – which I take to include standardisation of the unit for the same product across all retailers. However, I watched the Dispatches programme and was not impressed. It seemed to be banging on about the price differential between a superstore and a mini version of the same retailer. The real comparison is between a major’s convenience format and a corner shop, and pricing isn’t the only factor – range of stock, choice of size, quality, freshness, availability of recognised brands, store condition [cleanliness, hygiene, etc] , standard of shopkeeping. Until Tesco opened some of its smaller units in Norwich [including right inthe city centee] you couldn’t get a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk or lots of other things after 5 pm without going to a big store in the outskirts. If you happened to go into one of the poky little shops that sit in old estates behind rollershutters and security grilles your reception was on a par with a parachute drop onto a diminishing ice floe occupied by a starving polar bear.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
24 January 2013

If you have the misfortune to live on one those estates of the poky little shops that sit in old estates behind rollershutters and security grilles your reception was on a par with a parachute drop onto a diminishing ice floe occupied by a starving polar bear.I once did not all are the same the Asian Store owner found out by employing local staff there was less theft and more Customers& helpful staff.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
24 January 2013

I never use my local CO=OP always expensive as is Cost-cutter however.We now have a Local Aldi in Urmston Manchester its been open since before Christmas but we are being Ripped OFF or they have run out of Veg eg. Potatoes;Swede in Particular Price Example 1kg of Carrots 75p at Urmston store at Gorton store same day 1kg of Carrots 49p.While a new store does take time to get supplies right i have noticed Urmston store constantly sold out of Potatoes&Swede by Saturday Afternoons that leaves the rest of Saturday;Sunday;Monday without supplies Aldi does not have a Feedback on its website shocking.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
25 January 2013

Update on this Post according to a Staff member Aldi Gorton had dropped there price because they may have over ordered one cannot disclaim it or Verify that this is the Case.

Member
Miles Dexter says:
24 January 2013

This is just unbridled capitalism, if you look you will have money invested in theses companies like us all. When we buy everything on price, you end up with nothing! as an example look at the shrinking size of chocolate biscuits. I Only shop at John Lewis & Waitrose because they are honest, the food has provenance, (check the dictionary) the animals used for meat and eggs are not abused, the stores are airconditioned, there are less queues, the staff know what they are selling, and are not under the cosh like the likes of ASDA American owned part of the so called “walmart” family, yeah I’m sure! Even the vegetables come from select farms, and should you have any problems with their products, they are always their unlike the rest of the free trade free raid monsters, and the quality of their produce far outstrips all of their competitors…horse meat to pad out heir products would not be done @ Waitrose. We british know the price of everything and the value of nothing, that’s why we will end up with nothing! And horse meat, but “we’re worth it”

Member
Malc.Moore says:
24 January 2013

Miles I suspect 1 you do not have to live on a limited budget 2 you have never been in an Aldi or Lidl Store you get good quality at a reasonable price.I don’t care to shop in the very big Supermarket where items are constantly moved so its almost like a Treasure hunt every-time one shops.I want to collect my shopping and go i expect Waitrose. is no different to ASDA or Tesco for that.I remember going in a Waitrose many years ago on hols on the South-coast in Liitlesea I was shocked at the Prices and left without buying.

Member
colin says:
24 January 2013

Don’t believe all the hype they roll out about the the origins and husbandry that Waitrose et al pour into receptive ears. The majority of the “farms” are made up names to suggest good husbandry, happy healthy livestock, healthy foodstuffs produced under sheer bright blue skies where it only rains at night and the days are full of healthy sunshine to produce the optimum growing conditions etc etc etc .It’s all made up by advertising personel being paid by the stores to hoodwink you into paying more for “premium” than you ought to. The only thing that guarantees the livestock’s condition are the few markings like “Red Tractor ” , and they only guarantee the minimum legal standards are met.

Member
colin says:
24 January 2013

can anyone explain the pricing on , for example, Bananas? You can get them for (eg) 15p each, or a pack for £1.40p (eg ) Yet the prices displayed are for each or ( for the bag ) per kilo. So how do i know if the 15p each ones are the same. better or worse value when compared with the bag ? And before the wise ones say ….weigh em, i am referring to buying online .

Member
Malc.Moore says:
24 January 2013

Bananas a great pricing irritation a large Pack priced per Kilo in Aldi a 3pk priced per 100 grms i want and expect proper prices displayed.

Member
Liz. says:
25 January 2013

The stores make it impossible to compare prices at times. One pack may show the weight in grams, the other pack the volume in millilitres. Or one pack will state the price per item, but not how mant items there are in the pack.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
25 January 2013

I sure wish there were more ladies like you Liz you are 100% Correct.I very much doubt if such Pricing is allowed in Germany.Imagine if Fuel was Priced in a similar misleading way the whole Country would be in uproar about it.Food is an essential item pricing should be very clear to everyone.

Member

I definitely think pricing could be made clearer in some stores.. I have to jump through too many mental hoops sometimes to calculate which of 2 similar products is the best value.

But I also think that we need to start teaching children (and adults) a few basics when it comes Maths and shopping. In my local Tesco, I have several times corrected the staff on prices and offers they’ve put out where I found they had incorrectly calculated an offer. Before the store manager could produce the correct price on his iphone app, I had worked it out in my head, to the last penny. He was shocked. And I was rubbish at Maths at school.

We should all learn how to work out percentages and prices per kg etc… I don’t mind some things being priced per 100grms, because those items are often sold in small amounts. If you want to work out the per kg price, it’s fairly easy..just move the decimal place or times by 10. I do this all the time when working out which cheese is the best deal for example, or whether the percentage of actual meat in burgers (less wheat and vegetables) makes it cheaper or more expensive to buy than just getting a large pack of the meat itself and making my own.

Ditto reduced to clear items.. yes they might have taken £4 off a product and it looks like a bargain, but when you work out the price per kg, it’s still often more expensive than getting an alternative product and one which is still fresh.

My mother always told me as a kid.. you don’t look first at the price per pack.. you look at the price per kg. This is frequently clearly displayed at Tesco underneath the pack or unit price when it comes to meat and dairy products certainly.

Member
TL73 says:
31 August 2013

Our local One Stop often sells off good quality items cheap as they are close to there best before date. They seem to do this sooner than their bigger cousin Tesco.