There have been two notable developments in the price-matching world recently. Firstly, Sainsbury’s announced its Brand Match programme would now only apply to Asda’s proprietary brand prices and no longer to Tesco’s. The inference for customers perhaps being that Tesco is so expensive Sainsbury’s needs only to focus on the cheaper Asda. Hmm.
“Most shoppers have moved on from the price-matching brigade”
Sainsbury’s move - met with a guarded response from analysts, not least because Tesco carries many more branded SKUs than Asda - was followed by Morrisons’ Match & More. Morrisons’ price-matching derivative is different to its big four peers in that it offers points for the price differential not just versus Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco on selected lines but also Aldi and Lidl. Meanwhile, Asda trundles along with its Price Guarantee, while Tesco has the all-encompassing Price Promise. Indeed, in Ireland, the Tesco Price Promise applies to Aldi and Lidl prices too, though as sales and market share data suggests, to virtually zero beneficial effect.
All this price-matching would suggest it is a key competitive dynamic of the industry. Well, we beg to differ - because while the big corporations’ marketing gurus seek to put together ever-more clever initiatives, the majority of shoppers are simply not interested in programmes they see as self-serving and detached from their reality.
Quite simply, most shoppers have moved on from the price-matching brigade. Ask the vast majority what they want from their supermarket and they will say competitive prices: not coupons, not fuel saves, not price matches, not promotions and not vouchers. And which retailers provide this? Aldi, B&M, Home Bargains, Lidl, Poundland, Savers… I could go on.
Wood from trees is barely appropriate as a term to characterise just how detached from the evolving market the big four have become. Until they address base prices, on fresh food in particular, more and more shoppers will move towards the discounters.
The fastest-growing retailers in Britain are flourishing without loyalty cards. We see scope for material rationalisation and cost-saving in the marketing functions of the big supermarkets in times to come.
Dr Clive Black is a director at Shore Capital Stockbrokers