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Do you pay attention to supermarket price matching schemes?

Shopping trolley whizzing through supermarket

Your supermarket shopping receipt says: ‘We’ve compared prices with our rivals, and you saved money by shopping here.’ But do supermarkets’ price-match schemes have any influence on where you shop?

If you shop at Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury’s or Tesco, you’re probably familiar with the idea of price matching – where the supermarket gives you a voucher if your shopping would have been cheaper elsewhere.

Food prices are a big worry for many of us, and by giving out these vouchers supermarkets can reassure you that you’re getting a good deal, and encourage you to keep shopping with them.

Most of the Which? members we surveyed see price matching as a good thing – only 31% of you said you don’t pay any attention to price match schemes, while less than one in five say supermarkets shouldn’t bother with them. And more than half say it reassures them that prices are cheaper or comparable at the supermarket they’re shopping at.

But with each supermarket able to set the terms of its price comparison, shoppers aren’t always getting a full picture.

Who’s really cheapest?

Our research shows that there are a lot of different ways to measure who’s cheapest out of Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. The supermarkets who include own-label products in their comparisons have to wrestle with thorny questions about whether products with slightly different ingredients or styles of packaging are ‘comparable’ or not.

Supermarkets also have different rules about whether or not to include products that are slightly different sizes – so even some branded products might be included in one comparison but not the other.

So although supermarkets will claim they’re cheaper than their rivals in the majority of cases, you should take these claims with a pinch of salt.

Vouchers benefit supermarkets too

It’s worth remembering the benefit price-match vouchers offer to supermarkets as well. They give you a reason to return to the supermarket – usually at little cost to them. For the 59 shopping trips we analysed, the vouchers our shoppers received offered an average discount of £1.45. Worth using if you’re planning to visit that supermarket anyway, but for me at least, that would be too small to make it worth a special trip.

What do you think about supermarket price-matching schemes – do they factor into your decision about where to shop? How could they be improved? And what are your top tips for saving money on your grocery shopping?

Budgetshopper says:
30 November 2013

None of the major supermarkets price-match against Aldi or Lidl which are significantly cheaper, and where we do 80% of our food and grocery shopping. After this we head for Poundland, Savers and Wilkinsons, using the major supermarkets and M&S only for items not available elsewhere or for e few offers and treats.
We used to do 80% of our weekly shop at Asda but hardly go there at all now as they have given up trying to compete against the discounters. They only seem interested in people buying a trolley-load and/or having their shopping delivered (you have to go on-line to price-match your min. 10 items and print your voucher yourself).
Particularly since Waitrose entered the fray, one tactic that supermarkets use to get out of price- matching is to stop stocking the item. For example Tesco used to sell a 33cl bottle of Liefmans Fruitesse beer for £1.69 but when Waitrose started selling it at £1.49 Tesco initially matched the price but then simply stopped selling this product completely. Tesco in turn sell another 33cl bottled Belgian (wheat) fruit beer called Fruili which no-one else stocks so can charge a higher price for it as they do not have to price match.
My advice – if there’s an Aldi or Lidl near you, go there and don’t worry about voucher schemes.

CB says:
18 July 2014

Sainsburys is much more expensive than tesco. Many of the own brands have gone up a lot eg baked beans 30p in Tesco,Aldi and Asda only 24p. Similarly for tinned peas and many other items! I’ve just used a site called supermarkets.co.uk a price comparison site and sainsburys come out more expensive very time! Anyone know why this is?

John says:
18 July 2014

Sainsbury’s is ALWAYS the most expensive because they have openly said they will not be bringing down their extortionate prices to match those of Lidl and Aldi. Tesco and Morrisons have brought down SOME of their extortionate prices so that they can get back market share. I NEVER shop at Sainsbury’s on principle. If I can buy the same things cheaper elsewhere, why would I go to Sainsbury’s? I always buy my fruit and veg from independents or Aldi/Lidl as they are much cheaper. I am lucky to have quite a choice where I live though (Ilford, Essex).
The problem is some people don’t have a choice because some supermarkets have sprung up (or kept some of their prices low for a while) until such time as they have driven all the other independents (corner shops, butchers, bakers, greengrocers, etc) out of business – then they raise their prices up again. Bunch of cheats!

LuluH says:
7 May 2015

Three weeks ago at Sainsburys, I bought a lemon and thyme fresh chicken crown for £4 and it had a white price ticket price on the shelf for this item. One week ago, my brother bought one of these and it had increased to £5 (white price ticket again). Low and behold, today (7 May) they have reduced these to £4 on a red reduction ticket so that it looks like they have reduced the price for the benefit of the customers. Watch out for red reduction tickets as you will find if you purchase an item regularly, they will put up the price for a time and then reduce it back to what it was before.


Great observation of supermarket “fowl play” – thanks for sharing your experience LuluH! 🙂 All these comments are really appreciated and will be shared with the relevant teams here at Which?.

LuluH says:
7 May 2015

Is it only me that has noticed that Sainsburys has removed loads of items from their shelves from other producers. Most of the items on the shelves now are there own brand and one other producer. There is now less choice. Turkey rashers were on sale as they were low fat and because they were outselling their own brand, they stopped selling them. This happened with Brannigans jacket potatoes. These were 2/3 the price of their own and all of a sudden, there is only Sainsburys own jacket potatoes as a choice. Also, their own Balance 500g cereal is £2 in the main sainsburys stores, yet in the small stores they are £2.20p! and the box is smaller. The prices of goods in the smaller local stores have rocketed up and as a consequence, everyone is abandoning these. My local one used to be very busy, now you go in there and there seems to be hardly anyone in there. This is why there out of town stores are failing and of course after noticing all this, they then announce their losses nationwide. Upping prices is possibly not the best tactic.


My unscientific observations suggest that Tesco have been de-listing a number of branded products for several weeks now. They are still stocking products from the same big brands but from a narrower range of lines in each case and they are re-positioning their own-label products to increase sales at the expense of national brands.

It seems to me as well that Tesco’s price-matching scheme is running out of steam. They can no longer claim that their prices overall are lower than their major competitors’ prices. Until the end of last year it was quite common to get a £3-5 voucher [or better] on a £100 basket. I would say that the value of the redemption has now halved or worse. If anything, Tesco’s prices are consistently higher than Asda’s across the range and the price-match, while technically correct, is cetainly not producing much in the way of savings.

It is interesting that Tesco have also changed the T&C’s on their price-match vouchers so that they are not eligible for redemption on the same day: you have to return on another occasion in order to cash in your voucher. This is an attempt to secure a return visit by customers who might otherwise have done a little bit of extra shopping on the same day in order to redeem a decent voucher. With the vouchers becoming less valuable this is now pretty irrelevant – customers won’t go back just for £1.50 if they can save more somewhere else, and they’ve still got the voucher in their purse if and when they do return to Tesco.

At my local big Tesco they have a tolley at the entrance laden with big-brand products with price reductions. I have noticed that the number of items in the trolley has reduced considerably since this campaign started after Christmas 2014. Furthermore, the reductions on the branded products seem to be getting smaller. There is a curious placard on this trolley that says “Now Cheaper at Tesco”. Does this mean “Now cheaper at Tesco than previously at Tesco”? Or does it mean “Now cheaper at Tesco than at other major supermarkets”? Probably the former, but even that claim is looking increasingly dubious.

R Partington says:
27 February 2017

Petrol prices today Monday 27th February:
Asda Kinmel Bay: 116.9
3 miles away, Sainsburys Rhyl: 121.9
Sugar 1kg;
Lidl and Aldi: 49p
Sainsbury`s 79p

These are just two examples of where Sainsburys is expensive and I could cite many more.
For example: they recently replaced their own brand 680 gram jars of golden syrup at £1.25
with 325 gram plastic tubes costing exactly the same, ie a hidden price rise of well over 100%.

God help anyone who has to buy most of their shopping at Sainsburys.