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How to beat the supermarket strategists at their own game

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Author Topic: How to beat the supermarket strategists at their own game  (Read 3912 times)
« on: April 05, 2009, 09:51:33 pm »

Sharpen up and save at the supermarket

There's no reason why shoppers can't be as cunning as the supermarket strategists.

By ROB STOCK - Sunday Star-Times | Sunday, 05 April 2009

Supermarket tactics.

THE SUPERMARKET industry has spent decades and fortunes on refining the psychology of their stores to encourage shoppers to spend more.

Those tricks can include cunning store layouts, subtle labelling devices and even maintaining the optimum temperature to shop in (see illustration).

But an afternoon spent shopping around Auckland stores and a week spent chatting with industry insiders shows there are ways for shoppers to defeat the best ploys of the supermarkets, and use the big stores' strengths to advantage.

Our shop indicated that there were significant savings to be had by taking part of your weekly shop away from the supermarkets a large portion of the fruit, veggie and meat purchases while continuing to rely on them for the tins, jars and "hard" supplies with a long shelf-life.

That's because the supermarkets' margins on goods such as tins of beans, peaches and bags of rice are much thinner than on fresh fruit, veggies and meat, so shoppers spending up on the perishables are effectively subsidising the sale of the hard stuff.

And while there are savings to be had on perishables by doing part of the grocery shop elsewhere, it isn't really possible to find lower prices on hard supplies outside the supermarkets.

The case for shopping elsewhere for fruit and veggies appeared compelling when we did our comparison shopping on Thursday afternoon, but the "specials" on the supermarkets' meat we encountered showed that the careful supermarket shopper with a big freezer could make considerable savings by bulk-buying on special.

The special on the skinless chicken breasts at the Foodtown we visited even beat the Mad Butcher's price.

Our comparison shop also found there is a clear cost to convenience, and brand.

That 2-litre bottle of Anchor blue top milk costs nearly a third more at the service station we visited than at Pak n' Save, and there was an even bigger difference between the cheaper service station brand cost and the cheapest milk at the big yellow store. The difference between the costliest 2-litre blue top and the cheapest was $2, or 66%.

But it also found that simple assumptions were not entirely true such as that smaller supermarkets, which are far more convenient than the big stores to pop into for top-up buys of things like milk and bread, are necessarily more expensive for all items, or that just because two supermarkets have the same name over the door they will charge the same.

The small New World we visited in Green Bay in Auckland charged less for milk than the much larger Foodtown in LynnMall which was selling it in far bigger volumes. The small Supervalue in Titirangi charged more, but beat all the other supermarkets for royal gala apples.

Given the barrage of cunning ploys the supermarkets use to get shoppers to spend more than they need, a self-defence strategy with no less care is needed.

Jackie Gower from the Simple Savings thrift club says the first tip is to organise, and that means making a weekly menu plan and shopping to a list. That will make shopping trips more focused, faster and reduce the number of impulse buys.

Select your store, or stores. The big supermarkets are convenient, and there's no way to beat them for staples (unless budget-chain Aldi finally decided to make the leap across the Tasman), but for the price-conscious shopper, spreading your spend between stores means more trips in search of the best deals.

But while multi-location shopping sounds like a right chore, cunning shoppers can make it less of a hassle than it first seems. For example, if there is a fruit and veggie shop on the way to or from work, it can be the work of a few minutes to pop in. Ditto for a specialist meat supplier such as the Export Meat Warehouse or the Mad Butcher. These stores have to be there with their mix of price and quality to make it worth anyone's while to stop. For some, that can mean low price and lower than supermarket quality, for others the quality might be on a par, but the prices have to be better, or they'd go out of business. The Fruitworld we visited beat the supermarkets on price and there seemed to be no lower quality. It is not just the meat, fruit and vegetables.

Next door to Fruitworld was a Sealord fishmonger. A bit rough and ready it might have been in its presentation, but the fish was markedly fresher than in the supermarkets we visited, there were unusual varieties not seen in the supermarkets and the prices were on a par.

Store selection might also need to take account of each shopper's personal predilections and weaknesses. For example, those fond of boutique New Zealand beers might find themselves in raptures at the selection in New World Victoria Park, but they might be wise to limit their visits to keep temptation in check.

Gower also recommends bulk buying, where possible. When there's a staple you often use, snapping it up when it's on special can be sensible. Pak n' Save had five tins of Oak baked beans for $5 when we visited. If that's a brand you don't mind, loading up is sensible.

A chest freezer is needed for loading up on milk and bread when there are specials, or meat, which is one of those items that has such a high margin for the supermarkets that the "special" price cuts can be huge. Once the specials are taken into account the price of skinless chicken breasts varied at the supermarkets alone between $21.99 and $11.99 per kg. Academic studies indicate that bulk-buying can lead to bulk-eating, which won't disappoint supermarket owners.

To take advantage of the best price specials, it is handy to know what items generally cost. That can mean keeping a simple price book for the things you most commonly buy.

Gower said some Simple Savings club members took the trouble to ask people in the meat and bakery departments of supermarkets when they tended to mark down certain items. They then time their shopping trips to catch them.

For those who truly want to save, and have an adventurous streak and a huge freezer or friends to club together with, there's the option of contacting a wholesale butcher and buying a whole butchered cow or pig, or as is increasingly the trend, start growing fruit and vegetables in the garden.



The stores have many tricks to woo the dollars from out of our pockets, but here are a few of the most ingenious.

EYE-LEVEL: Pricier, higher-margin articles are often put at eye level, while the budget ranges tend to be near the top of shelving units, or at your feet.

PRODUCT SPACING: Milk in the back corner of the supermarket is put there to get you to walk further. Store owners want customers to have to walk the length of the store, past lots of tempting displays, to get to it.

GREENS FIRST: Fresh produce like fruit, veg and meat carry some of the stores' highest margins. That's why they are put at the start of your shop, so you don't fill up the trolley with lower-margin items before you get to it. If the placing was done with shoppers in mind, said one former supermarket-chain executive, the soft stuff like fruit would come after the hard stuff like tins so you could put it on top.

MID-AISLE PLACEMENT: Placing some of the most commonly bought goods in the middle of aisles is designed to make it difficult to nip in and out of an aisle without passing a large number of other items.

END-AISLE DISPLAYS: Suppliers whose products are in end of aisle displays allow the store owner to have a greater margin than usual. There's only one reason for that: these displays work, and often they offer products shoppers don't need.

LABELLING: People are easily manipulated by labels. Tell shoppers there is a "limit" of six cans of soup per shopper and they will buy more. Similarly, selling something at "3 for $3" will result in more sales than pricing the same items separately.

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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2009, 12:47:55 pm »

Supermarkets discount drinks loaded with sugar and salt more often than healthy alternatives, a study has found.

The study by Otago University recorded 1487 discounted drinks from four Wellington supermarkets over four weeks.

The researchers found just 15 percent of the discounted drinks were considered healthy, including water, plain reduced-fat milk or plain reduced-fat soy drinks.

The remaining 85 percent were unhealthy products, like soft drinks, sports beverages, flavoured waters and cordial - drinks high in sugar, salt or both.

"This research suggests less healthy beverages are discounted more frequently and to a larger extent than healthier beverages, " the researchers concluded, adding a nationwide study would necessary to confirm this.


See, it isn't all in our heads.
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The way politicians run this country a small white cat should have no problem http://sally4mp.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2010, 07:37:15 am »

I have a family of 4 hubbie me 12 and 9 year olds.
I have NEVER been coned into buying anything.  I shop each fornight and most of the time spend $200:00.  I know where to shop and I look at discounts etc all the time.  My kids know if they are with me that i don't let them have anything at the front of the counter, I wil not be suckered into buying anything.  Alot of surpmarket checkout chicks even have started to asked would you like two of this or that it is cheaper.  My answer is I am not at mcdonalds so no.

I honestly think some people are really dumb, I read all slevfes and don't buy just what is in front of me
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The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2010, 08:21:16 am »

I often find cheaper goods and better quality goods by looking up & bending over, and digging to the back of whatever it is.

The cheaper product is often higher or lower, the item they are pushing is hand hand/eye height.  fresh goods are more often put to the back.  Sometimes in the front, but the majority of buyers choose the one in front of them, grab & go.
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Laughter is the best medicine, unless you've got a really nasty case of syphilis, in which case penicillin is your best bet.
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2010, 06:57:36 pm »

I'm not sure about this but I have an idea that supermarket shelving position is bought by the manufacturers and  marketing companies. We manufacturer for a company which is now only into the marketing of their products.  They've contracted all the work out.  A few months ago our products went from the bottom shelf to eye level and its nothing to do with higher margins....believe me.   When I first saw our stuff at eye level it felt quite cool....as in ..oh look we've come up in the world, lol. 

I could be wrong about the shelving position but am sure I have heard it spoken about.   
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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2010, 01:33:59 pm »

Well, Ferney, find out please. Grin  yer in a good position to know.
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Laughter is the best medicine, unless you've got a really nasty case of syphilis, in which case penicillin is your best bet.
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« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2010, 03:08:06 pm »

I couldn't find this thread.   Been searching in General and thought I was going nuts.    Grin

Yes, the supplier pays for the shelf height level and end of aisle shelving costs more.   
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2010, 10:52:56 am »

I couldn't find this thread.   Been searching in General and thought I was going nuts.    Grin

Yes, the supplier pays for the shelf height level and end of aisle shelving costs more.   

So is it working out for them?
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