Sue Chetwin, Consumer NZ’s chief executive, said prices were collected for a basket of 30 popular grocery items over a seven-week period at Countdown, New World and Pak’nSave stores.
“Pak’nSave stores came in with the lowest prices, retaining the place the chain has held in nearly every survey over the past 15 years,” Chetwin said.
Chetwin said prices were closer at New World and Countdown. On average, the cost of the groceries at New World was about $3 to $5 higher than Countdown. The exception was Hamilton where average prices were level pegging.
According to Chetwin, more than half the products tracked over the seven weeks were regularly on promotion.
“Price promotions can save consumers money. But we found some products are being discounted so often, shoppers have grounds to question whether the specials are really all that special.”
Items that were regularly marked down included household staples such as butter, bread, coffee, jam, yoghurt, pasta, snack bars, dishwashing liquid and shampoo.
“Price promotions have become the new normal in supermarket aisles. But shoppers face an unenviable task wading through the advertising noise to work out if they are getting a genuine bargain,” Chetwin said.
Pricing practices have earned both Foodstuffs, which owns the New World and Pak ‘n Save brands, and Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown, a place on the Commerce Commission’s roll of the most complained about traders.
Consumer NZ has called for regular price monitoring to ensure consumers aren’t being misled about special prices.
Stores advertising special offers must be offering a genuine deal, Chetwin said. “If the savings aren’t real, retailers risk breaching the Fair Trading Act.”