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Are supermarkets using smoke and mirrors to hide how expensive they are?

Supermarkets have a huge market share of our every day needs and seem to monopolise every service and product that once was the staple diet of our high streets.  From clothing to bakers, green grocer to florist they provide a number of services in one location that we would have bought from several different businesses… but are these retail giants charging us more for saving us time?

We have probably tried most of the supermarkets around us… we have 6 Tescos within reasonable driving distance (not including the Tesco metro that took over our local corner shop), 2 Sainburys, 1 Waitrose, 2 Asdas and a Morrisons.. from memory… Morrisons is normally our supermarket of choice but I actually prefer my local mini mart which is a Turkish chain.  Nowhere near the size of the big ones and the quality is second to none… my fruit and veg last without having to be used within a day or so or kept dark or cold and they cost significantly less than any of the supermarkets – despite their claims of “Special Offers”.  A 10kg bag of large, good quality potatoes at just £2.99 cannot be matched… the potatoes are of the quality and size that normally command a premium as baking potatoes and just looking at the top supermarkets they are charging £1.75 for just a quarter of that weight…

Now my Turkish supermarket doesn’t do pork or many of the cleaning products we like.. but the local high street has many shops that do and it’s not hard to go the few steps necessary to acquire them.  What they lack in goods they more than make up for in quality and freshness.  Their meat is substantially better and cheaper than any of the supermarkets and it’s prepared in front of me.  If I want my meat chopping up I just ask… If they see me struggle with my shopping they take it to my car for me – often without me asking.  Bread may be limited to just a few products but it is absolutely fresh and baked several times a day.

This week… we went back to Morrisons… they have an offer for 15p off a litre of fuel and Frank needed to fill up… in TFC we spend on average £40 for bags of fresh fruit, salad, meat and basic essentials (does their cheap wine come under essentials cos we normally get at least 6 bottles?) and maybe £15 or £20 elsewhere on other things we need like bleach and bathroom products.  Our Morrisons bill was over £100 and the saving on the fuel?  around £10.  Over the period of a year, that adds up to a huge amount, in fact around £2,000 if that was our normal spend.  Every week we were shopping he would look at groceries in the trolley and say we seemed to buy less and spend more.  What would normally happen is a book or household item would capture the eye or some offer on wine or other item would make it in to the mix that would boost the weekly bill.

I often use tomatoes in dishes and tinned ones are easier.. a particular item caught my attention an “offer” the 4 tins were £2.44 instead of just shy of £5.. since when did tinned tomatoes cost £1.24 a pop?  Yes there are different qualities and some have fillers and all manner of differences.. hence you often see the supermarket own brands on staples that are just the basics in flour, past, bread and the like but I have been quite shocked to see the cost of some of the ordinary items on display… they seem to have soared somewhat above the quoted inflation rates of around 4.2%.  Tinned tomatoes seem to vary wildly from just 31p and these particular ones are at “normal” price of just 80p in Asda… one presumes, given the profits they return year on year that they are still making money at the 64p of the offer or they wouldn’t sell them?  There are many other examples but this one caught my attention this week.

With the news full of stories accusing supermarkets of marching in to every aspect of our lives like insurance, beauty, pharmacies, credit cards and apparently even cars, as well as contributing to the demise of the local high streets we may now be paying for our allegiances.  On-line shopping makes it much easier for many and stops  the weekly jaunt to the high street and the ritual search for reasonably priced parking but it also puts an end to the impulse purchases that many of us make to some of the more specialist stores.. or are we finding those on-line too?

At the business franchise show there was a fruit and veg supplier who delivers to your door which appears to be a growth industry or why would they be exhibiting at such a show?  They did have a very busy stand too… now that’s worth a look at if you don’t have a TFC down the road like I am lucky to have… I also came across a site that you can access via your facebook login and see ways to save on your shopping via the main supermarkets.. I am sure it will be useful to someone but I think I shall go and see my local shops and see what they have.. it’s much less stressful and a much nicer experience.  The weekly trudge around the store got more and more like hard work for me… what about you?