/ Shopping

Special offers don’t make us buy more

Supermarket offer

Here’s one to hit the supermarkets where it hurts – new stats show that promotions are on the rise, but takings aren’t. Ouch. Could it be that we’re just too smart to be fooled by ‘special’ offers

A few weeks ago we revealed some of the silliest supermarket ‘special’ offers we could find.

From peas reduced from 35p to 35p, to a £1 drink that costs £4 for 2, we all had a good laugh at our picture gallery here at Which? HQ. And, judging by the flood of responses, you did too.

But, while these offers put a smile on our faces, your comments also proved that as shoppers we’re a pretty savvy bunch.

Many of you warned of the false economy of buying in bulk. “There’s usually a catch with these promotions,” said Pickle. “[They’re] often done to get rid of excess stock – so, it pays to carefully check the “two for one” offers – often the offer means you are paying more.”

Others were concerned about how to tell the true value of the items on offer. “What I find irritating is when the 2 for £x offers don’t show the new price per kilo or litre. It makes comparing different sizes a chore,” said Toby.

Cleary, Which? Convo users aren’t easily misled when out shopping, but new figures show that this trend spreads even wider. Market research company Nielsen has reported that an astounding 37% of groceries were on special offer in September. Yet, despite such high levels of promotion, there was only a 0.4% increase in volume of sales.

What this suggests is that special offers and promotions don’t necessarily make us buy more. We seem to be switching to a special offer when it’s similar to an item we already wanted, rather than adding it to our shop and buying more.

As Archie Thomson put it: “Do the supermarkets really think that we can’t count?” With stats like this, maybe they’ll start to realise that actually, we can.

pickle says:
21 October 2010

If there is a promotion on something I want to buy, I’ll buy it. But so many promotions are for stuff I don’t want anyway – so they can stuff it!

Steph says:
23 October 2010

How are supermarkets allowed to misrepresent offers? Sainsburys have an offer of 5 for £2 for ANY sainsbury range lentils, pulses or soups. However, on passing through the checkout I was charged the full price. Apparently, the offer is only for a SELECTED range which is not stated on the shelf offer label. Surely many supposed offers are totally misleading. Having been previously caught out by a previous sainsbury false offer I was not duped on this occasion but my previous trust in sainsburys as a good value, good quality supermarket has gone. Trying to obtain a sensible response from customer services was a complete waste of time. At least I feel Asda listens to customers.

If you are careful you can actually make some good savings, but I take every ‘special offer’ with a pinch of salt and compare prices in other stores. I tend to look more at the offers on things I buy regularly, so I know if it is a good/genuine offer and if so I’ll stock up on some items to make the most of the savings.

Special offers, 2 for 1 should be banned. The retailers should not be able to sell any item at below cost. Except short sell by dated items. Items such as milk should have a regular price and the farmers should be ensured a fair price for their products.

Steven says:
2 December 2010

What annoys me is when 2 for 1s / 3 for 2s etc are reduced in price cancelling the promotion. I recently bought two packs of mince from Lidl that were reduced and together cost me more than buying two full price items with the promotion AND Lidl wouldn’t refund me, let me swap or apologise.

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