So on Friday, while I was still in Cape Town, the episode of Rip Off Britain that I took part in aired. If you have access to the BBC iPlayer, you can catch up with the show online until the end of next week (28 March). The wine segment is in two parts: the first starts at 11:39, and then the second – which I feature in – is from 30:50 until 41:00.
The theme is the confusing nature of supermarket wine offerings, and in particular the role of promotions.
Six times more wine is consumed in the UK now than in the 1970s. It has become our favourite tipple, with 1.7 billion bottles sold each year. Three-quarters of this wine is bought in supermarkets (I think they are referring to off-trade, not restaurants), with more than half purchased on special offer.
According to James Ford, who runs the excellent price comparison website MySupermarket, the wine aisle is the most confusing part of the store. He has worked out that of the big 5 online supermarkets, 1400 of the 5000 wine lines are being price-promoted at any one time. He describes this as a ‘promotional confusion’ that customers have to wade through.
If you look at wines on MySupermarket you can see the price of these ‘half-price’ wines oscillate wildly in a binary fashion. I think it’s unethical. It is taking advantage of your customer’s difficulty in knowing the true price of wine.
Sainsbury’s explanation for these wildly oscillating prices is as follows.
Wine prices are dependent on a number of factors including harvest yields, transport costs and duties, as well as movements in global demand and currencies, so can fluctuate because of one or several of these over the year.
Do they think we are stupid? Which of these factors cause, for example, their Roc de Lussac St Emilion to regularly cycle between £14.99 and £7.49?
I apologise if this is all getting a bit boring and repetitive, but these fake promotions are bad for wine, and a bad deal for customers, and I won’t stop talking about them until supermarkets do the right thing and stop them.