Tag Archives | Tesco

Choice or Confusion – too much of a good thing for consumers?

We’re told competition and choice is a good thing – that it allows consumers get better value for money. But we all know businesses are out to bamboozle us – the greater the confusion, the greater chance we’ll end up spending too much money.

One only has to think about the last time we tried to pick a mobile phone deal or health insurance plan to understand that amount of choices provided will almost certainly lead to confusion among many consumers.

Dishwasher Tablets

A very simple example is illustrated below.

Vast choice in dishwasher tablets will lead to consumer confusion over best value available

Back in November, I just needed to buy some dishwasher tablets. Simple? The image above shows the choices available FROM ONLY A SINGLE BRAND in a well known supermarket multiple. There are thirteen different options below, broken down as follows:

  • 5 different price points, €10, €16.43, €20.01, €20.02 and €26.30
  • 5 different numbers of tablets per box. 30, 38, 40, 51, and 74
  • 6 different price / number of tablets combinations
  • 2 of the combinations are 50% off, but no deals available on the rest
  • 6 different average price per tablets

Unit Pricing

Interestingly, none of these price stickers show any of the 6 different unit price per tablet for any of the combinations. According to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission:

Unit pricing is a useful way to compare prices of groceries that come in different sized packages.

I guess dishwasher tablets don’t fit into the “groceries” category.

Which would be useful for consumers because depending on the pack chosen above, you could pay anything between 25c and 55c per tablet – a difference of 220%.

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This Weeks Grocery Special Offers across Ireland

Every week you can access this weeks grocery special offers across Ireland from all of the main grocery chains from this single handy web page. On a weekly basis, sometimes monthly, all the Irish supermarket chains publish their special offers on their websites in various different formats.

You can use this webpage to click on any of the icons below to bring you directly to the this weeks grocery special offers across Ireland from the main supermarket chains.

This Weeks Grocery Special Offers across Ireland

These links are as up to date as I can make them. The supermarket chains, however, don’t make it easy to keep this listing up to date – they regularly change the links to their special offers pages for no apparent reason other than to make it hard to keep this webpage up to date.

If you notice any broken links, or have any suggestions on any other pages that should be added here, please let me know here.

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Dunnes Stores is the most popular link from the Grocery Special Offers page

I was looValueIreland Grocery Special Offers Pageking at the website stats for this site on the excellent StatCounter website recently, and particularly the listing of the most popular links that visitors follow to go to other sites. It’s no surprise that most of the links that people use are from the ValueIreland Grocery Special Offers page.

What was surprising though, was the fact that the Dunnes Stores link was three times more popular than either of the next stores on the list – Tesco and Lidl. In fact, the numbers selecting the Dunnes Stores link outnumbered those selecting Tesco, Lidl and Aldi put together.

This differs from the market breakdown for the supermarkets in Ireland where as of the end of September, Tesco was still the most popular, marginally ahead of the SuperValu / SuperQuinn combo which didn’t make the top 5 exit links.

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Big Deal. No, seriously, why bother, Superquinn?

It just shows how dire the state of competition in our grocery market is when Superquinn think it’s worth their while printing up posters telling us how much they’re exactly the same as one of their competitors. Not just a little better, not a lot better, but merely exactly the same.

If you're reading this, you're probably on a PC with internet filtering, or a poor connections, so you're missing a picture of a Superquinn poster proclaiming that they're exactly the same as Tesco.

Competition in our grocery market? Not here anyway.

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Boo hoo – we’re being bullied by Tesco

I’m getting tired of the frequent coverage given to Tesco and how they’re operating, allegedly, in the Irish grocery market. I don’t care really that it’s mostly negative – they’re too big, they’re too powerful, they’re bulling customers, they’re bullying suppliers.

There’s a very very simple solution to all of this.

Don’t shop in Tesco.

If they’ve no customers, they’ve no power, they won’t be too big, and they won’t be able to bully customers and suppliers.

If we (and I mean Irish people here – or maybe just Irish journalists) have a problem with Tesco, stop shopping there. Things would soon change.

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Buy Irish? Make sure you check the small print

I wrote recently about some comments in the Seanad and elsewhere from people concerned that Irish consumers were sometimes being conned into buying products that they think are Ireland, but are in fact not.

Here’s a great example from Tesco towards the end of 2009. Firstly, check out this picture of a display of toilet paper – you’d be forgiven for thinking that this stuff was made in Ireland.

And you’d be wrong – check out the small print from the back of one of the products:

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Update on Grocery Offers E-mail – not much of an update

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the special offers web pages that are presented by most of the Irish grocery chains. I mentioned how I’d written to a few of them suggesting that a couple of changes would make those offers pages a little more user friendly – both for consumers and for people who run websites such as this one.

These suggestions primarily focused on publishing the offers on the same web page each week rather than on differing pages, and potentially publishing the offers on an RSS feed as well.

Well, in 3 weeks, I’ve only received responses from Tesco and Centra. Centra have still to follow up further, and Tesco have confirmed that their special offers will always be available on http://www.tesco.ie/weeklytopoffers/. Tesco also confirmed that publishing special offers via an RSS feed isn’t something they’re going to do for the moment.

If anyone out there has any contacts within the other grocery chains, maybe you could pass on this post and see if they’d like to follow up.

UPDATE: Just to add, following a couple of extra e-mails yesterday, Musgraves PR have just confirmed that they’re following up now as well.

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Grocery special offer web pages – hopefully grocers will do better

You’ll probably have seen on many consumer related websites recently the growing listing of the special offers web pages that are updated every week or month.

For the record, here are the special offer links for all the Irish based grocery chains that I can find at the moment. If I’ve missed any, please let me know.These web pages are obviously pretty useful. For me personally, I find the Eurospar and Centra special offers pretty useful as I get some of my regular shopping items from those chains in bulk depending on the offers they have at certain times.

Could Do Better

But I really think that these grocery chains could actually do a little better with their grocery special offers web pages.

The main issue I have with their web pages is that for some of them, the links could change from week to week. This means that the respective websites need to be checked each week to see where the special offers are, and subsequently any links provided one week on a website like done above could be out of date and become a broken link the next week when the link changes.

Certain other pages provide non-standard presentations of the special offers such as Flash images or PDF files. These have the problem that not all web users (and particularly those doing the shopping and potentially visiting these pages) will have the software necessary on their machines to see the actual offers.

Yet another issue is where a couple of the offers pages open up in new windows. These pop up windows aren’t ideal in getting the message across to the widest possible audience as they could be blocked by some peoples internet settings.

RSS Offers Are the Future

Finally, I think these grocers are missing a trick by only publishing static web pages with their weekly or monthly special offers.

I reckon they’d get a much larger audience if they provided their grocery special offers via an RSS feed.

This would directly benefit any consumers who want to subscribe to these special offers where the update each week or month would be pushed out rather than depending on people visiting the website each week. Even coming back each week to check out the special offers might not be so straight forward if the consumers can’t bookmark the special offers pages if their web address changes each time.

I also think that if these grocery chains were to provide their grocery special offers via an RSS feed, it would given them greater flexibility in how to broadcast their message (via anywhere such as Twitter, Facebook, and so on that can publish such a feed).

It would also make it easier for publishers of consumer websites such as this one to promote the special offers to our readers on a weekly or monthly basis and to ensure the information is as up to date and as accurate as possible all the time.

Will the Grocers follow Up?

With all this in mind, last night I contacted most of the above grocery chains providing this feedback and the RSS publication suggestion. Hopefully they’ll all follow up.

I’ll let you know how things progress.

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Positive steps towards a national grocery price comparison website?

According to this article in this mornings Irish Times, the National Consumer Agency are in the process of trying to put together “a grocery database containing real-time price information which consumers could use to make accurate comparisons on the cost of a basket of goods”.

According to Conor Pope, the NCA have contacted Tesco, Spar, Dunnes Stores, Superquinn, Supervalu, Aldi and Lidl with a view to getting access to their prices on a more realtime basis rather than the current 6 monthly grocery price survey. The article mentions that Tesco are apparently in favour of such an independent grocery price comparison site.

I referred last week to the issues in Australia with their plans for a grocery price comparison site. At the moment, it seems that a “social media” campaign is being started to get consumers to submit prices of grocery items in order to build up an independent database of prices.

Such a campaign is, unfortunately (in my opinion), doomed to failure as the quality of the data is dependent on consumers submitting the pricing information – we can see this difficulty with the petrol price comparison sites in Ireland (despite the excellent work of Pumps.ie). Sometimes, there’ll be good information, but at other times, information will be incomplete, out of date, or not available in a particular area. This will only be compounded hundreds if not thousands of times across the many many grocery items available across all the Irish grocery retailers.

The government sponsored Australian price comparison site was pulled, allegedly, because of a reluctance on the part of the Australian grocers to make their pricing inforamtion available for comparison purposes.

It’ll be interesting to see how successful the National Consumer Agency are in getting pricing information from all of the Irish grocery chains.

However, this plan from the NCA is the only way to go when it comes to a grocery price comparison site. From a technical perspective, a grocery price comparison site is quite simple to set up and maintain – provided it gets a consistent and accurate daily feed of prices from the respective grocery chains.

And it’s not like they don’t have the necessary information easily to hand – a simple extract of their grocery products stocked and the price charged could in theory be achieved in minutes every morning.

There are a couple of potential sticking points though. One mentioned in the article is how to compare across “own brand” items – a growing part of all grocery retailers stock portfolio these days.

Other potential issues would be:

  • How would one determine what stores should be taking part in the website comparison – do you include only multiples and thereby give them de-facto free advertising at the expense of independent grocery stores?
  • How do you manage price differences across the country – we’re told Dublin is 4.4% more expensive than Dublin. Do you therefore need a set of “Dublin prices” and a “country price” as well – doubling up on the data requirements for the project?
  • What about Northern Ireland stores? These grocery chains have growing chunk of the Irish grocery market, so to get a valid comparison, they would also need to be included.
  • What value would there be in the price comparison site if, for example, Dunnes Stores decided not to allow their pricing data be used? The exclusion of such a big player in the market would negate the value of the project as a whole.
  • The ComReg CallCosts.ie website is referred to in the article as an example of a similar popular service. While CallCosts.ie provides a certain amount of useful information, it is open to manipulation by the telecoms companies who always want their offerings showing at the top of any listing. This will need to be avoided for any grocery comparison site.
  • Also, with regards to CallCosts.ie, it hasn’t developed with the market which has moved on since it was originally set up – it doesn’t provide a mobile broadband comparison yet. Any grocery price comparison site will need to be developed in such a way that it can quickly adapt to grocery market changes.

For what has to be the first time ever, I’m positive about something being done by the National Consumer Agency. If this is properly investigated, analysed and planned, a grocery price comparison website could be an excellent addition for Irish consumers.

And just think – once all the information is stored centrally, who know’s where this could end? Online shopping lists? I-Phone or mobile phone applications? Links with cooking and recipe websites to automatically create your shopping list?

Think Amazon.com, but for grocery shopping.

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Loyalty cards are more important to attract business these days

Irish News of the Word

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Loyalty Cards

Now that times are tougher, it’s great to see more businesses trying harder either at keeping or attracting our business. No longer do businesses work on the basis of “if I sell it, they will come”, they now need to work hard to get our money from us.

Shops like Dunnes, Tesco and Superquinn have always had their reward cards, as did some book shops as well.

But now we’re seeing many more restaurants, coffee shops and even butchers starting to offer loyalty cards to entice us back again and again.

These cards will offer you free items or will turn into money off vouchers after a set number of purchases.

In general, there’s not a whole lot wrong with these loyalty card offerings where you’ll find standard offer is to give you something after 8 purchases. This works out to be effectively 12.5% extra for you – nice if it’s something you buy regularly.

The one thing that you should be careful is to not get tempted to buy extra stuff just because you’re getting extra card points or extra stamps on your loyalty card.

Just because you think you’re getting more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a bargain if you end up buying more than you need or want.

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