/ Health, Shopping

Do retailers artificially inflate the cost of our suncreams?

A new piece of research from The Guardian suggests supermarkets artificially inflate the price of sunscreens to make you feel you’re getting a good deal – a concept we’re all too familiar from our research at Which?.

Now I’m particularly interested in this issue from the point of view of our ‘Make Special Offers Special’ campaign. Our research has found that too often the deal isn’t quite the deal you thought you were getting. And with 10 pricing tactics commonly used by supermarkets, it’s no surprise we’re on guard when presented with a special deal.

Suncream investigation results

The Guardian commissioned mySupermarket.co.uk to track the pricing on some of the big brand and own-label suncreams over the past year. The results produced some interesting findings, including the below:

Suncreams detail by the Guardian

Boots and Tesco respond

The Guardian journalist Patrick Collinson asked the retailers to explain their pricing strategies, including the examples illustrated above. He asked Boots why the pharmacist establishes its suncream price at a time when fewer families buy the product. Boots said:

‘At Boots UK we are committed to offering our customers great value on sun protection when they need it most. We continually review our prices to ensure that the full range of brands we sell are priced competitively’

And Tesco’s responded with:

‘We aim to offer our customers consistently low prices to help them with their everyday shop, as well as offering promotions on certain products. The Nivea Moisturising Sun Lotion has been available on half price and two for £12 offers since March this year, at a time when many of our customers are preparing to go on holiday.’

Read more on how some of the other retailers responded in The Guardian’s full article.

Special offers should be special

At Which?, we want special offers to be genuinely special. We’ve found dodgy deals across the aisles, with prices yo-yoing between multi-buys and discounts, so that it is almost impossible to know the actual price. We’re campaigning for simpler, clearer and fairer pricing rules and tougher enforcement action.

Have you ever questioned the price of your summer essentials when stocking up? Do you feel it’s difficult to get a genuine good deal? We’d love to hear from you…


You are asking supermarkets to be straightforward, honest, and fair. How far do you think you will get with that?

PGB says:
19 July 2014

You would still be attempting the 1st stair in a flight of 100 steps.

My suggestion is to ignore all information about past price and look at what is on offer at the time. Even with products that we don’t buy regularly – like sunscreen – it isn’t too difficult to estimate whether the price is reasonable.

I suggest it is a legal requirement that giant supermarket chains have a searchable database of all the prices a particular product has been offered at. The very cost of keeping it and the transparency it forces upon them I am sure will have beneficial effects.

Come on Which? a nice simple course to pursue relating to a group who have way more power than the individual consumer : )

M Allsopp says:
19 July 2014

http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk does show previous prices on all its products across the supermarkets. Makes interesting reading

In Boots and other shops I often find that “Special 2 for 1” offers are based on an inflated price for the single item. I don’t buy “2 for 1” offers unless I was originally intending to buy 2, and the price seems fair. If I just want 1 item then I go elsewhere – and I usually find I can get a single item cheaper than buying one item at the shop with the “offer”. IMHO “2 for 1” offers are often just a con.

Canny shopper says:
20 July 2014

With tactics like these from one of the heavyweights (Tesco) they wonder why people are leaving in droves to go and shop in the likes of Aldi and Lidl….