For more than three years I have been complaining about the fake half price wine offers in supermarkets. See here, here and here. What’s wrong with a deal? Nothing, it’s just that these deals are illusory. The wines – known in the trade as tactical brands or trade drivers – are designed with discounting in mind. Say a £5 wine on the shelf is bought by the supermarkets from the producers at 85 Euro cents a bottle (this would be a typical price). These wines would be bought for say 85 Euro cents and then end up on the shelf at £9.99, only to be ‘discounted’ to £5 in a ‘half-price’ offer. It isn’t very honest.
Recently, this issue has been picked up by the media. BBC’s Watchdog ran a story a while back, and The Guardian did one last week, followed by several other nationals. Website www.mysupermarket.co.uk has proved to be a useful tool for exposing the dishonestly priced tactical brands. You can see which wines are on offer in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Waitrose, and then look at the historical pricing of each of the wines. It’s very revealing.
Since this coverage, Sainsbury’s – one of the worst for these ‘half price’ deals – has stopped doing them altogether, in store and on their website. They won’t say that this is because of the negative coverage, nor will they shout about the move (people would ask why they were doing them in the first place if they now think they are a bad idea). Their official statement, after I phoned several times, was:
“Customers enjoy a good deal and we’re always looking at new ways of offering great value. Half price deals are sometimes a good way to do this, but customers increasingly tell us they are looking for greater simplicity in wine promotions and so we will be looking to offer quality wines priced or discounted at consistently attractive levels.
There are currently no half-price promotions in store or online but we would certainly not rule these out in the future where they are appropriate.”
This is encouraging, but there are still too many 1/3 off deals of a similar style in store, involving these tactical brands. And when the media storm eases off, will the half-price deals reappear?
Tesco still do lots of these half-price wines. I asked them whether they had any plans to drop them, in light of the step that Sainsbury’s have taken, and the response was, predictably, ‘I’m afraid at the moment we are not able to discuss commercial strategy.’
What about Waitrose? It used to be by far the best of the supermarkets for wine. But it seems that commercial pressures are causing it to lose its way. Their range is increasingly littered with tactical brands, and deep discounting. It’s a real shame. As examples of overpriced wines on 1/3 off or half price see here, here, here, here, here and here.