Sainsbury’s Local and Tesco Express customers are paying up to £320 and £280 respectively more a year than those who shop at larger stores for the same items, new Which? analysis reveals.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on consumers’ shopping habits, with many people avoiding large supermarkets in favour of shopping online or using convenience stores near their homes. But while convenience stores have been a lifeline for many people during the pandemic, they are not the most economical way for consumers to shop as prices tend to be higher.
More than half (51%) of Which? members surveyed who used convenience stores said cost was one of their biggest bugbears.
To determine how much more customers could be spending at supermarket convenience stores compared to their larger stores, the consumer champion analysed the average weekly price of 48 own-label and branded groceries for five months in 2020 across the two largest convenience chains – Sainsbury’s Local and Tesco Express – and compared it with the cost of the same items at their supermarket counterparts.
Which? found customers could be paying 9.5 per cent more a year (£322) at Sainsbury’s Local than they would at a regular Sainsbury’s supermarket.
On average, the shopping list of 48 items, which included Napolina Chopped Tomatoes and McVities Ginger Nut biscuits, cost £71.26 a week at Sainsbury’s Local compared to £65.08 at a Sainsbury’s supermarket – an average weekly difference of £6.18 and £322 annually.
Which? also found Tesco Express customers could be paying 8.4 per cent (£279) more a year compared to those that shop at a larger Tesco supermarket. The shopping basket of 48 items would cost £69.12 at Tesco Express compared to £63.75 at a Tesco supermarket – a difference of £5.37 a week and £279 annually, on average.
At Sainsbury’s the products with the biggest price difference were a 400g can of Napolina Chopped Tomatoes, which was a third more expensive at Sainsbury’s Local, and a 250g packet of McVitie’s Ginger Nut Biscuits, which was just over a quarter pricier at a Sainsbury’s Local store compared to a larger supermarket.
A number of Tesco own-label products were a quarter (23%) more expensive in Express stores than in supermarkets, including Tesco 0% Fat Greek Style Yogurt (500g) and Tesco Orange Juice With Bits, Not From Concentrate (1lt).
In some cases, however, products were the same cost or even a fraction cheaper in the convenience store. For example, a 500ml bottle of Flash spray with bleach was the same price (£1) at Sainsbury’s Local, Tesco Express and the supermarkets, while McVities Digestives were on average 1p cheaper in the smaller stores.
Which? shared its findings with Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Sainsbury’s said that product price is influenced by a variety of factors including special offers, while Tesco said that rents, rates and operating costs are higher in built-up areas.
The use of convenience stores increased during the first lockdown, offering an alternative for those who preferred not to travel or queue for supermarkets and – particularly in the case of local stores that launched delivery services – a lifeline to vulnerable and shielding people.
A Which? members survey found three in five (61%) had shopped at Costcutter between one and three times a month in the eight months after the first nationwide lockdown began in March, compared to less than one in 10 (7%) before the pandemic.
Similarly, one in five (20%) had shopped at a Co-op four to six times a month since spring 2020, compared to just 12 per cent before lockdown.
Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which?, said:
“Convenience stores have been a huge help to many of us during the pandemic. However, our research shows that shoppers who rely solely on supermarket convenience stores, rather than their larger stores for their groceries, are paying a premium.
“Customers will generally get more for their money at larger supermarket stores, but for some products, the price difference may not be significant, so it is always worth checking prices to make sure you are getting the best deal.”
Notes to editor
Which? surveyed 1,012 members of its online panel between 19th and 24th November 2020.
Analysis based on the weekly price for 48 own-brand and branded grocery items between 13 June and 31 October 2020. Average annual difference calculated by multiplying the average weekly difference by 52.
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A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We’re committed to offering our customers the best possible value. The price of our products is influenced by a range of factors, including promotions which can vary between Sainsbury’s supermarkets and convenience stores.”
A Tesco spokesperson said: “Our Tesco Express stores are mainly in built-up areas where unfortunately rents, rates and the operating costs for these stores are higher. The difference in prices of some products reflect these increased costs, but our prices remain competitive as we strive to offer great value to our customers.”
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