Will the first price-match scheme to offer a voucher at the till pay off?

Cool. That’s how Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King described the rollout of the Brand Match scheme this week.

The first till-based initiative, revealed by The Grocer in June and trialled in Sainsbury’s 12 Northern Irish stores since August, pledges to match Tesco and Asda on over 12,000 branded grocery lines. If shoppers spend £20 or more at Sainsbury’s and buy at least one branded line, the retailer will instantly print a voucher at the till if it was more expensive than Tesco and Asda on the items bought.

That’s “cool”, insists King, because shoppers “don’t need to hunt around for deals anymore”. The retailer is backing this up with extravagant claims that shoppers travel 22,784 miles in their lifetime the equivalent of once around the world hunting in supermarkets and beyond for the best price.

But will Brand Match work and how does it stand up against rival schemes Asda’s 10% Price Guarantee and Tesco’s Price Check?

Brand Match’s trump cards are its immediacy and its simplicity. Unlike Price Guarantee and Price Check, shoppers get a coupon at the till as soon as they’ve finished their shop, while Asda and Tesco shoppers have to wait 24 hours before typing their details into the respective websites. They also need their own printers to print off the vouchers. “Shoppers don’t want the hassle of having to enter different pieces of information on their computer at home before having to then print out a coupon just to check they are getting the best deal,” says commercial director Mike Coupe. “We are happy to do the legwork for our customers.”

Immediacy has been a feature for Sainsbury’s for some time. Its Coupon at Till system has dished out coupons to its Nectar card customers since September 2009. In the year to 19 March, it issued more than 240 million coupons. But with Brand Match, you don’t even need to be a Nectar cardholder. It’s teamed up with BrandView.co.uk the company who help us compile The Grocer 33 every week to compare prices. The Nectar coupons will continue to be issued alongside Brand Match.


Rivals have been quick to jump on the long list of restrictions in the Ts & Cs.

Brand Match only compares brands; shoppers need to spend more than £20; products need to be exactly the same as in Tesco and Asda; the voucher expires after 14 days; it only counts 10 of the same product; and doesn’t include a host of mainly non-food lines such as batteries and stationery.

Shoppers also have to buy the right number of products to make the most of rival deals. For example, if Asda had a bogof on Coca-Cola and Sainsbury’s didn’t, shoppers would have to buy two Coca-Cola’s at Sainsbury’s for the system to recognise the deal.

That’s not to say Price Guarantee and Price Check don’t have limitations. Both can only be checked online, so shoppers have to have internet access, a computer and a printer. Tesco’s Price Check only compares prices against Asda and, since Double the Difference was scrapped earlier this year, has slipped under the radar in favour of Big Price Drop. Price Guarantee, meanwhile, has come under fire for failing to include basic groceries shoppers would think comparable, such as bananas.

Launching Brand Match much later than rivals means Sainsbury’s has been able to learn from others’ mistakes. Earlier this year Tesco had to drop its pledge to refund double the difference on products bought for less at Asda after a “cottage industry of savvy, determined people” took advantage.

Coupe says Sainsbury’s has been working on Brand Match since January “checking the mechanics and evaluating the pitfalls so we could avoid them”. The Grocer ­revealed in June the retailer had been quizzing shoppers via a survey about a possible scheme. Following the initial trial in Northern Ireland, Sainsbury’s has dropped the voucher’s maximum value from £20 to just £10 to stop the 0.03% of shoppers who are ­deliberately exploiting loopholes.

There are also technical limitations still to be ironed out. Vouchers aren’t issued in petrol stations, c-stores, Fresh Kitchen and 23 other Sainsbury’s because they “don’t have the technology”. They also can’t be issued or ­redeemed online, although Sainsbury’s is “looking into solutions”. And although shoppers can redeem more than one voucher at a time, a “technical limitation” means the vouchers have to be of different values.

Rivals also claim Brand Match lacks transparency, because the vouchers don’t detail which products were cheaper elsewhere. Sainsbury’s even “reserves the right to remove individual comparable products”. This means that if Asda or Tesco ran a huge deal on a sku, Sainsbury’s could in theory pull the product from the Brand Match scheme.

Sainsbury’s insists customers can call its careline to be talked through any Brand Match discounts on their shop. But shopper reaction on MoneySavingExpert.com is positive with shoppers focused on achieving the maximum £10 voucher.

“Just put through your shopping in three £20 transactions,” says one, while another claims they can get a “£9.76 voucher for a £26 shop including a 12-pack of beer”.

Sainsbury’s is clearly playing a risky game emphasising higher prices, but it’s a gamble that could pay off, say analysts. “Everybody wants to make price claims. It is difficult to do without being very costly,” says one. “If Sainsbury’s gets it right, it would be very clever indeed.”

Here’s proof we are more expensive…

The Grocer put Sainsbury’s Brand Match to the test this week, filling a trolley with 33 branded items.

Our shopper bought a range of brands across all major categories, including Heinz, Marmite, Walkers, Cif, Sure and Kleenex and was handed a voucher for £3.07 off their next shop at Sainsbury’s.

The lady on the checkout said the promotion seemed to be going down well. She said most customers had received money-off coupons, but savings had generally been small, ranging from a few pence to a couple of pounds though the highest-value voucher was for over £8, she said.

But there was no indication on the voucher, or on our shopper’s receipt, as to which brands had been more expensive at Sainsbury’s.