The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



Supermarkets Told To Sort Out Sniping

By Stacey Wood And Tom Hunt
First Published on
The Dominion Post

Warring supermarket chains have been told to sort out their sniping over which has the lower prices after one was found guilty of misleading customers.

In a 14-page judgment handed down by the Advertising Standards Authority, Progressive Enterprises, which runs Countdown supermarkets, was found to have misled or deceived its customers about in-store promotions in two stores.

A Countdown store in Hornby, Christchurch, ran an advertising display featuring two supermarket trolleys, one filled with items from the store, the other from a nearby Pak'n Save, in an effort to show its prices were lower. A similar promotion was run at a Countdown in Rotorua.

Foodstuffs, owner of the Pak'n Save chain, complained to the authority that the display made an unfair and inaccurate comparison, and did not compare "like with like". The display read: "Weekly basket. Products selected by store manager. Price comparison survey, price to price."

The authority ruled that despite the fact Countdown had highlighted the items on special, it had chosen nine out of 33 special items from its store, compared with just three from Pak'n Save. The highlighted items included a bag of dog biscuits reduced by $7.10.

"The method of selecting items, the brand of the items and products on sale all comprised elements which had the likelihood to mislead or deceive the customer," the authority said.

Every year since 2008 there have been complaints upheld against either Progressive Enterprises or Foodstuffs under the authority's code for dealing with complaints about comparative advertising.

In its answer to the complaint, Progressive mentioned a similar campaign being run by Pak'n Save in Moorhouse Ave, Christchurch, and suggested it might bring a similar complaint to the authority.

The authority urged the two companies to work together to self-regulate comparative advertising as "complaints of this nature are a long-standing issue".

Chief executive Hilary Souter said: "Pricing is clearly a very sensitive issue in the supermarket business. I think the industry is interested in coming up with some standard guidelines."

How to avoid paying more at the supermarket: Take a list and stick to it – it's the key to avoiding impulse buying Join your supermarket's loyalty programme to take advantage of discounts

Take advantage of multi-buys or stock up on good specials, even if you don't need the items immediately

Check the unit prices of items – smaller sizes are sometimes better value than the larger size

Get to know your supermarket's layout so you can avoid temptations like the confectionery aisle.

Above all, do not shop when hungry – with a full stomach you're less vulnerable to free samples, promotions and impulse food purchases.

Source: Consumer NZ   

Kiwis are estimated to spend about $25.9 billion in supermarkets annually, a little over half of total retail food spending nationwide.
Pak'n Save has consistently claimed the title of cheapest supermarket in Consumer NZ's annual survey for the last 11 years.

Progressive maintained its signs were not misleading or ambiguous, and argued that they clearly said goods were a selection of the store manager's.

'In fact, a similar complaint by our own business regarding advertising by Foodstuffs was upheld last year by the ASA. We acknowledge that all retailers must get the price comparisons right."


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