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?