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8 April 2021

Shoppers not convinced supermarket “specials” are genuine, Consumer NZ survey finds

Seven out of 10 Kiwis think supermarket “specials” have become so common that they’re questioning whether the savings are genuine, Consumer NZ’s latest survey has found.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said signs promising discount deals are a regular feature in supermarket aisles.

“Retailers know shoppers are more likely to buy a product that’s marked at a ‘special’ price. But with discounts so pervasive in supermarkets, many consumers are asking whether they’re getting a real deal,” Duffy said.

Consumer NZ’s survey found:

  • 81 percent of Kiwis agreed supermarket prices in New Zealand were too high
  • 74 percent agreed specials had become so common they weren’t sure the savings were genuine
  • 63 percent agreed “special” price labels could be confusing, making it difficult to work out the actual savings.

Duffy said the survey also found consumers were experiencing other problems with the stores’ price promotions. In the past two years:

  • 66 percent had found an advertised special was out of stock
  • 46 percent had been charged more at the checkout than the price shown on the shelf label
  • 45 percent had noticed an error on their receipt that meant they’d been overcharged.

A significant proportion of shoppers were also charged higher prices because they didn’t belong to the stores’ loyalty programmes.

Thirty-one percent said they’d missed out on getting an advertised special price because they didn't have the supermarket’s loyalty card.

Loyalty programmes were heavily promoted but there were good reasons why consumers chose not to sign up, not least because they didn’t want to share their personal data with the supermarkets.

At Countdown, you need to be a “Onecard” member to get selected specials. At New World, you need a “Clubcard”. If you opt not to sign up, you’ll be charged a higher price.

Terms and conditions of loyalty programmes allowed supermarkets to collect a range of information about shoppers and their purchasing preferences. While this information was gold for the stores, the benefits for consumers were questionable.

Consumer NZ will be providing the results of its survey to the Commerce Commission, which began an investigation into the grocery sector in November.

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