Thoughts for Friday – 23rd January 2015

51bb97b02fa6be8dc0a039ba60f0de90I can’t believe that it has come to this, but it’s finally time to face the truth: I am secretly one of those people who collect coupons for my grocery shopping.

I’m not sure if it’s the same in the States, but here in the UK we have several different supermarkets all vying for our custom and willing to do all sorts of things to ensure that we come back week after week. Our biggest chains: Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons are in stiff competition with each other. Asda is the only grocery store that does not offer any kind of loyalty card but one assumes that this won’t be the case for much longer.

Grocery stores claim that ‘loyalty’ cards are there to reward the loyal custom of its regular shoppers by giving them points which can then be turned into monetary rewards. The real truth is that these ‘loyalty’ cards are simply a ruse to spy on shoppers and discover which items are most commonly purchased by them. I am sure that there are some geeky bods hidden in a bunker somewhere who correlate this data and use it to encourage us to buy things that we don’t necessarily need.

It’s long been practiced by grocery stores to offer you deals that seem too good to be true, and that’s because they usually are. These stores will record every item purchased with each swipe of your loyalty card and then send you coupons based upon what you’ve put in your basket/trolley. The idea behind this is to encourage you to buy more of what the supermarket wants you to buy and not what you actually need.

The lure of ‘money-off’ coupons and ‘two for one’ deals is enough to attract many unwitting shoppers into placing something in their basket or trolley that they don’t actually need and this isn’t the only trick that the big players use. Have you ever put much thought into how and why the shelves are stacked in your local store? They are laid out in such a way as to attract the human eye to exactly what the grocery store wants you to see, making it more likely that you will pick up an item that they want you to buy.

BBcbPerhaps the cruelest trick these stores play is the careful placement of quick treats and ‘sweets’ (candy bars etc. for my readers in the USA). Have you ever noticed how so many of them are placed either adjacent to the checkouts or actually on them? The major retailers have discovered that most of their shoppers buy their groceries on an empty stomach or with a gaggle of unruly young children along for the ride. Every kid knows how boring grocery shopping is, so what better way to shut them up than with a chocolate bar in their greasy mitt?

And that is exactly why such items are placed on or by the checkout tills, and do you know why?

Because it works.

But back to my original point: the grocery store coupon. It used to be common place to find ‘money off’ vouchers in weekly magazines to entice shoppers to try new products, but this seems to have been phased out over the last couple of years. With the rise in popularity of the loyalty card, many of the larger chains of grocery stores have stopped accepting any vouchers that were not produced or authorised by them, the biggest culprit of this being Tesco.

My-Voucher-Codes-PrizeWell, Tesco is suffering from its smaller and cheaper competitors undercutting them and it is having a serious effect on their bottom line. The other major players have grown wise to Tesco’s games and have not only matched wits with them, but have actually beaten Tesco at their own game. Having been used to being ‘top dog’ for so long, Tesco is now finding itself lagging behind its competitors.

With so many chains all clambering for the custom of the Great British public, these stores are firmly entrenched in a price war with each other, often offering large loyalty point rewards for repeat customers and providing them with all sorts of incentives to keep them returning to their stores.

So what does this mean for the average shopper?

With the advent of ‘price matching’ between most major chains, it should encourage shoppers to remain loyal to whichever grocery store they choose. It all gets rather confusing when one chain only matches prices with one of their competitors and not all of them. This means that, in theory, a shopper could visit several different grocery stores and buy the products that are cheapest in each. That would also mean a great deal of driving here, there and everywhere and would more than likely negate the money saved on products.

aldi_lidl_logosAll of these tricks and schemes seem to be having the opposite effect in driving customers away as they flock to the cheaper ‘European’ chains such as Aldi and Lidl. Yet what makes these lesser-known stores the front-runners when it comes to retaining their customer base? Well, they don’t use loyalty cards, money-off vouchers or any other gimmicks to get customers into their stores. Their offer good quality products at fair prices.

All of this goes to show that consumers don’t want to be bombarded with underhanded tactics and mind games, they just want their weekly grocery shop at a fair price. Maybe if the big chains took notice of this they wouldn’t find their customers flocking away in droves.

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Thoughts for Friday – 23rd January 2015

  1. My sister is a big fan of Lidl, apparently their produce, especially their fresh stuff is great. It’s just I’m totally lazy and do online grocery shopping, where those coupons do come in handy πŸ˜€

    • I have shopped in Lidl a couple of times and while I find them very competitive on price, I do think that they lack the variety of products that the bigger chains offer.

      I think I have a loyalty card for pretty much every supermarket now and I am trying a different store each week to see which is best.

      Whatever happens, at least I’ll rack up some points and perhaps a few money-off vouchers along the way! πŸ™‚

  2. The little town i lived in only had a Tesco until recently and ‘regional pricing’ meant prices in our tesco were more expensive than other tesco stores in nearby towns. However, We now have a Waitrose, a small Sainbury store, and an Aldi. Soon enough we will have a huge ASDA. Tesco are screwed. They will be forced to reduce their prices to remain competative or find themselves priced out of the market in my little town. I look forward to it.

    • This is similar to what happened in the area that I live in. For so long, Tesco was the big player in town and set its prices at whatever they wanted. Now that other big supermarkets are cutting in on them, Tesco are finding it increasingly difficult to attract customers to their store.

      We have a Morrisons, two Asda’s, a Sainsbury’s and two Waitrose stores within close reach of the Tesco, as well as an Aldi and Lidl.

      With so many competitors in the market, it can only mean good news for customers.

      Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

  3. I’ve been saying the same thing when Air Miles first came out. They are spying on what you buy and know your habits better than you. People used to look at me like I had lost my mind. Ha! Now, everyone is clamoring for our attention and I don’t care. I could care less. No loyalty cards for me, thank you. Wonderful post! ❀

    • Thank you ❀

      I think loyalty cards and the like are just another way for 'Big Brother' to spy on us and monitor what it is that we buy and use. They then use this information to target specific groups of customers and tailor their 'offers' to appeal to that bracket of shoppers.

      It's rather frightening at how closely monitored we are as a society with the advent of CCTV cameras, ISP's tracking our internet usage and the sites we visit, the use of loyalty cards etc.

      This list is endless and probably won't stop here. It just goes to show that George Orwell was more on point than we gave him credit for when he wrote 1984.

  4. That’s the world of business for you. I can’t really blame the food companies and the stores. It’s all about the bottom line. πŸ™‚ I’ve always noticed that the sugary stuff is eye level with kids. Why? It sells. I never had any influence with my parents over what was purchased. Sometimes I got the treat if there was money; most often not. I learned not to argue – it was fruitless – and one learned early not to mess with Mom and Dad in the supermarket! Great post, Heather.

    • Thanks Kate! ❀

      There have actually been a number of appeals by various consumer groups to ban sweets and sugary foods at the checkouts due to its influence on the diets of the general population. I think that Tesco is the only store so far to have done this (something they've done right for once!) The others still continue to try to tempt shoppers with sugary treats.

      There are so many competitors now when it comes to supermarkets that we are finding products cheaper than they were 12 months ago and this can only be good for the customer. However, the price of milk has dropped so drastically that many UK farmers are struggling to make any kind of living, let alone a profit from their produce. As retailers continue to fight tooth and nail in a price war, the price that they are willing to pay UK farmers and producers are dropping drastically, which is not such good news for our farming industries.

  5. I just do my shopping, no price matches, no coupons. I dislike it as much as my kids did when I used to drag them with me. The quicker it’s done, the quicker I can get out of there. πŸ™‚

    • LOL! I am very much like you in that I dislike grocery shopping and would rather get it over with as quickly as possible. The problem I have is that I live on my own and have a pretty tight budget, which means that I need to make every penny count.

      The price wars in the supermarkets are a good thing for me as it means that I am paying less for my shopping than I was this time last year.

      Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

  6. I can’t bother with coupons – they always end up costing me money somehow!

    • I think that tends to be the point, Michelle. The whole idea of monitoring what items we buy and offering vouchers accordingly is nothing more than a ruse by retailers to convince us to grab a ‘bargain;’ when in actual fact it isn’t even a product that we wanted or needed, we merely bought it because the offer sounded good.

      Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

  7. I hear that now that they also monitor your blog as well as your loyalty cards, every market is now going to add 2 percent to your costs when you swipe, Heather B!

    I have all the supermarket loyalty cards here in my state. My dear wife Karen and I usually go to Wegmans because we like their products and prices best overall, but solo trips, I’ve been known to swing into the chain I happen to be nearest at the time. And now we have the new and funky Trader Joe’s to consider, too. Oh, what an exciting world of spied-upon shopping it is. Great post.

    • Thanks for commenting Mark! ❀

      I really hope that you're joking about the blog monitoring thing! πŸ™‚

      I used to have a favourite supermarket that I visited regularly but now I go to whichever one is most competitive at the moment. With all of their price matching and loyalty schemes, prices are fairly uniform wherever you shop.

      I think I pretty much have a loyalty card for every shop I visit and I always tell myself that it can't hurt to have one, especially when it doesn't cost anything to have one.

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