Sainsbury's ends fake 'half price' wine offers, for now

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.

5 comments to Sainsbury’s ends fake ‘half price’ wine offers, for now

  • It would be great to see them go away but the supermarkets do them because they work. While the average consumer is attracted to a deeply discounted offer on wine which they have no idea of the real value, these things will continue.

    So the only way to solve it is to help people understand the real value of wine. Something that whole industry has to attempt. Remember that many people buying the fake discounts are new to wine.

  • Ian Reynolds

    Thanks for making this post and for the good work you are doing with regard to the multiples. Tesco still worst offender in-store. I do think that Waitrose is certainly the least bad. Very few promotions in-store save the 25% of list price.

    I always use Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon as my benchmark. Standard false list price in supermarkets £9.99. Can often be had at independent shops for £6.49 – £6.99 which is probably just about the correct price level.

  • Samuel

    Thought I would share this with you – Apothic Red is currently £9.99 in my Tesco’s.

    As you pointed out, if this wine is designed to bridge the gap and introduce new drinkers to red wine, this could well be their first encounter with a £10 wine, what is the incentive to ever trade up again, especially when it will inevitably on offer at £4.99 soon.

  • Paul Dove

    These fake discounts should be made illegal. It’s chilling that some supermarkets still think it’s a good idea to defraud their customers of significant amounts of money in this way.

  • Steve

    I can hardly sleep knowing supermarkets are still running such offers to increase their profits. Although I am an idiot who believes that capitalism is entirely benign in its intentions, like some of the idiots quoted above.

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