It’s being reported this morning that there is pressure on supermarket prices. But do they just put up the prices across the board? Or do they find sneaky ways of making you pay more?
I’ve heard of packet sizes being reduced and offers (3 for 2 etc nowadays, BOGOFs having been discredited some years ago) becoming less frequent. But here’s a new ruse: change the mix of stores, as has happened in Ealing, with one of the main outlets downgraded to a Tesco Express.
What Tesco actually seem to have done, presumably nationally, is go from 3 types of store, Superstore (cheapest), Metro and Express (most expensive, “convenience” store) to 2 types, Superstore and Express. It seems most of the Metro stores have become Express stores.
The fairly obvious consequence is that, if customers’ shopping habits stay the same, Tesco will rake in more dosh, whilst still being able to send emails claiming to be as cheap as Aldi* (for some products).
* these claims don’t apply to Express stores.
So why not just go to a Superstore? Well, here’s the local choice of Tescos (courtesy of Tesco’s website):
Until recently I was doing nearly all my shopping at the Ealing Broadway Tesco, number 2 on the map.
The only Superstore on the map is number 5, so I trudged down there to take a look. It’s a far less pleasant stroll than the one to Ealing – you have to walk next to the main Uxbridge Road (a section named The Vale, as if it’s pleasant, which it definitely isn’t) for much of the way. It’s not as easy for me to get to by public transport as Ealing Broadway, as there’s no nearby tube station. Obviously if you have a car…
And guess what? The “Superstore” in The Vale, Acton is not as big as the convenience store in the Ealing Broadway shopping centre! There are things you can’t get in the Superstore that you can in the Express store!! I noticed the cheeses in particular.
I did an ad hoc price comparison. As far as I can tell, the Ealing Broadway prices were the same as those in The Vale, Acton before the former store was downgraded. Disclaimer: I went to the stores on different days, so can’t guarantee the same item was offered at the given prices simultaneously; also I didn’t buy all the items, so may have misread pricing.
|Item||The Vale, Acton Tesco Superstore price||Ealing Broadway Tesco Express price||% increase|
|4pts semi-skimmed milk||£1.09||£1.15||5.5|
|Mozzarella, 240g pack||70p||80p||14.3|
|Springforce bogroll x9||£1.90||£2||5.3|
|Springforce kitchen towel||90p||91p||1.1|
|2x chicken Kiev w. bacon & cheese||£2||£2.30||15|
|2x salmon steaks||£3.50||£3.75||7.1|
You get the gist. Unless you just buy Springforce kitchen towel and bananas, you’re facing an inflation-busting increase in the cost of your shop if you remain loyal to the Ealing Broadway Tesco.
And it gets worse. Because the Acton Vale “Superstore” doesn’t stock all Tesco’s lines, some items are much more expensive for local Tesco shoppers, even if they’re prepared to go to The Vale, Acton. In particular, the 3 for £5 offer on selected tasty cheeses no longer applies in Ealing and the cheese selection is not available in The Vale, at any price. Since the cheeses individually cost £2.20 or £2.75 that’s at least a 32% increase (£6.60 against £5), were I to continue buying the cheeses in Ealing, which I’d previously been doing at least weekly for years. I know Tesco haven’t dropped the 3 for £5 offer entirely, since I saw it in another Superstore, outside London. And stocked up.
I wrote to the Tesco Chief Executive to complain about this, but have had no reply. Feel free to add your voice in protest. Among other things, by making the Tesco in The Vale the only Superstore in the area, Tesco are incentivising unnecessary car journeys.