Savvy shoppers get helping hand in hunt for best deals

Unit pricing is being pushed as a simple way for consumers to find the best deals

With household budgets squeezed and rising food costs among consumers’ top worries, it’s all the more important shops make it easy for people to spot the best value products, particularly when they are buying essential food and drink items.

But the huge and ongoing response by eagle-eyed readers to Guardian Money’s Daft deals column on supermarket pricing consistently illustrates how they get it wrong, and how shoppers are possibly not getting the best price.

The push to get supermarkets to put an end to the confusion by using “unit pricing” has gained fresh momentum, with consumer group Which? inviting shoppers to sign a national pledge backing the move, while comparison website mySupermarket has launched an online tool which tells shoppers whether the deals at the top supermarkets are worth buying.

The Savvy Buys feature uses price tracking technology to highlight when grocery items are at least 30% cheaper than they have been all year. It claims this will provide “the definitive benchmark” for a good supermarket deal, but obviously only for consumers with internet access.

Through its unit pricing campaign Which? wants supermarkets to ditch price tags that are often hard to read and inconsistent. Current legislation requires retailers to provide both a selling price and a unit price for products. The unit price is the price by weight or volume that allows shoppers to compare the true cost of products, even if they come in different sizes.

However, a spot check of branches of each of the 10 leading supermarkets by Which? found that none met its best practice criteria developed with Trading Standards and the Royal National Institute of Blind People for size and legibility of unit pricing.

Alongside Savvy Buy, mySupermarket has also launched a tool showing the average price of goods on sale at major supermarkets, allowing users to get an idea of the “real” price of products. The average price is taken across the previous year at all the stores it lists (Morrisons is not included because it doesn’t offer online shopping), taking into account all price rises, falls and promotions. The tool means you can see if an item is always on offer or if the current price really does represent a good deal.

Do you find the current pricing system perplexing, and comparing like-for-like an increasingly difficult prospect?

Rebecca Smithers

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