On the telly, exposing supermarket illusory price promotions

jamie goode rip off britain
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.

jamie goode undercover filming

undercover filiming 2

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.

16 comments to On the telly, exposing supermarket illusory price promotions

  • Keep it up. Well done.

  • Great and insightful post! Will watch the episode on iPlayer soon.

  • Couldn’t agree more.. And equally sad is the fact that it also destroys the small independant wine merchants and specialists who help to retain the diveristy of wine and its producers.

  • Jason Carey DWS

    I would love to be able to view this in the US… hint hint

  • keith prothero

    Good for you. Would love it if some brave Govt stopped the evil supermarkets from selling wine :)

  • Jamie, how is wine different than other grocery products as it relates to this pricing issue?

    In the states, almost every product sold in a supermarket channel has quarterly price promotions called TPR’s. (temporary price reductions). The price can fluctuate from a list price of $15 USD to $8.00 USD. the list price is shown and the discount is clear.

    It is how toothpaste, pet food and everything else is sold in most grocery channels. I don’t think wine is treated differently although there may be some legal regulations in place.

    Is wine treated differently from other consumer packaged goods in the UK?

  • RayC

    Here in the states we have a wine seller called “BevMo” which is short for Beverages and More. They are famous for their “5 cent sale”, buy the first bottle of wine at regular price and get another bottle of the same wine for 5 cents. I’m continually amazed at the ignorance of the American consumer. Do they really think that “BevMo” is a philanthropic organization? I have to congratulate “BevMo” for their ingenious marketing ploy.

  • Yourwinechoice

    Great news. Definitly see wine I have sold in the past at twice the price discounted down in half price offer. Our hero, keep it going

  • Perhaps those journalists who review and recommend wines (especially in national newspapers) should only select wines with stable pricing and do more naming and shaming of extreme promotions.

  • Ruth Guest

    Fantastic that you put yourself out there & made a stand to speak out Jamie! It’s needs to be done more regarding supermarket wines.

  • It can’t be seen outside of UK. Where can I see this please?

  • Fred

    How do you feel about Majestic’s wine pricing?

  • Paul Dove

    Good that you’re covering this Jamie but you weren’t nearly hard-hitting enough on camera. Saying ‘I suspect some of these wines don’t offer good value for money’ isn’t the same as saying ‘It’s time for these supermarkets to stop ripping us off with their fake deals’ or, as you rightly say here in your blog, ‘Do these supermarkets think we’re stupid?’. Tough language and naming and shaming is the only way this unethical practice will be stamped out.

  • Nico60slurp

    Brave move Jamie to put yourself in the ‘cross hairs’… it needs to be said though and you have a voice that people will listen to, well done.

  • Lord alone knows how one would start to control this in a free market environment. And would one really want to? Everyone discounts to some degree, even the traditional merchant gives a discount when purchased by the case, and a further discount if sold to trade. It is human nature to be tempted by a bargain and it seems that as long as you can convince most of the people most of the time, you are on to a winner.
    Or you move to the system like the Scandinavian monopolies where discounting of price is generally not permitted and can only be reviewed on a six monthly basis.
    I don’t really see why discounting is regarded as some sort of an evil. Is it?

  • The bigger issue in my opinion is the amount of wine that is sold below the market price.
    In all products, supermarkets have a monopoly on them because of their buying power..
    There’s discount, then there’s discount.
    Each supermarket is competing with each other and they have to reduce certain lines to convince the shopper to use them.. But it’s not right. How can an independent business compete with that?

    Near my shop there is a large sainburys, a small asda, and a small Tesco (in the space of 200 meters).
    How can you convince a customer to use a small independent when the customer is fooled by the ‘great offers’ !?!?!

    Does there need to be a call for minimum pricing? or does the government need to do something with wine in the supermarkets like they did with canned beer !?!
    Supermarkets can’t sell any 500ml cans of beer, just 440 ml

    I don’t know how they couple police something though

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