Kiwis love a bargain, but are we getting ripped off?

by Patrick O'Meara / 21 August, 2018

Photo: 123RF.

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New Zealand supermarket shoppers are among the world's keenest on a cheap deal, spending $6 out of every $10 on groceries that are on special.

A Nielsen report found that was well ahead of other countries, with Australia spending $4 out of every $10 dollars on promotions, Britain $3 out of every $10, Germany $2 out of every $10 and France just a $1.80 out of $10.

"Shoppers are conditioned to look for and buy products on promotion," Nielsen's Brett Miller said in a statement. 

"This is not to say this cannot be changed or that this is a dynamic that's specific to the Kiwi shopper, it is simply a reflection of the current retailer and supplier promotion strategies."

The $20-billion dollar supermarket trade is wholly dominated by two players - Foodstuffs, which owns the Pak'n'Save and New World chains, and Australian-owned Countdown.

In a high-volume, low-margin sector, Foodstuffs' head of customer experience Emily Blumenthal said specials were essential in keeping people coming back.

"We definitely have a big proportion of the population that...love to go out and hunt for deals."

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said sales promotions and specials were part of the general retail environment.

"It's very hard to move consumers away from that.

"It's noticeable if you travel overseas just the lack of intensity around specials, especially intense specials when there has been deep discounting. You don't see that as much in other part of the world," Mr Wilkinson said.

RNZ spoke to supermarket shoppers who did look at the specials to try and make their dollar go a little further.

But Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said special offers were used so frequently that the claimed savings were questionable.

"Effectively the special price is really the usual selling price so you're not getting a genuine saving."

The Commerce Commission in 2017 warned retailers about misleading discount sales and price promotions, and that it would prosecute those not following the rules.

Ms Wilson said Consumer NZ wanted regular price monitoring so households could have confidence they were not getting ripped off.

"Our price tracking in supermarkets has also found practically half the items in our basket of goods that we tracked were regularly on special."

"So the price problems we have seen in our past research are still evident in the market today we believe."

Ms Blumenthal insisted the industry had cleaned up its act, and specials were now typically a very good deal for shoppers.

This article was first published on Radio NZ.

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