A few years back wine writers in the UK campaigned against the fake half-price supermarket wine deals. I even did some filming for Rip Off Britain where we went undercover to a few supermarkets to expose this rather dishonest practice.
Using price reductions to promote products is nothing new. Some industries – such as kitchens and furniture outlets – seem never to sell any products at anything close to full price. Bizarrely, consumers never question this. How can a business survive if they are consistently selling products at half price? How much margin would they have to make on regularly priced products to still make something selling at half price?
For wine, a product category I know well, I find it to be a dishonest retail strategy. The model is to take a cheap ‘soft brand’ wine and then use it as a trade driver. Where a bottle would retail with normal margins at price X, the wine is listed at double X, and then at regular intervals it is retailed at price X – half price. The wine will be sold at full price only in the legal minimum number of stores, and then will find shelf space in the majority only when it’s on offer. Some brand owners deliberately created products that were trade drivers, such as Hardys Crest which was £10 full price but £5 on discount.
A few years ago, supermarkets began withdrawing these sorts of dishonest deep discounts. We were happy, because they aren’t good for the category. But today at Tesco I saw the reappearance of the half price wine deals.
There were two products on shelf. One was a Central Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, made by the Concha y Toro group and bottled at Greencroft. High Tide is actually an Isla Negra brand, but this isn’t an Isla Negra wine according to the label. It’s not a £12 wine. The second is the Barossa Drive Shiraz, which is a soft brand exclusive to Tesco and bottled by Kingsland. Again, this is not a £12 wine in terms of value. I haven’t tried either so I can’t comment further, other than to say that I hope this isn’t the beginning of the resurgence of the fake half-price wine deals.