One of the main arguments in favour of new supermarkets is that they provide lower cost food for those who need it.
Using the shopping basket of the Office of National Statistics we compared prices in the local Co-op, Sainsbury’s Local, Budgens, Nisa, Yildiz, Morrisons on Holloway Road and Sainsbury’s in Camden.
What we found was that the ‘cheap’ chain shops were in fact considerably more expensive for some items. To take some almost random examples:
Kelloggs Cornflakes cost £2.19 at Morrisons and Sainsbury’s in Camden, but only £1.89 at Yildiz and £1.75 at the Co-op.
McVitie’s Digestive biscuits were 78p and 79p at Morrisons and Sainsbury’s and 89p at Yildiz, but 69p at Nisa.
250g mature cheddar was £1.99 at Sainsbury’s Camden, £1.99 at Nisa, but £1.66 at Sainsbury’s Local and Nisa, and £1.70 at Morrisons.
Potatoes were 69p at Yildiz but £1 at Sainsbury, £1.99 at Sainsbury’s Local, and £1.29 at Morrisons.
Because not all outlets stock the same items it is difficult to calculate for certain which are the cheapest places to shop, but there certainly doesn’t appear to be much rhyme or reason about the pricing, and it is clear that the supermarkets are not the bargain they claim to be compared to the smaller alternatives.
Looking at comparable items in Junction Road and in supermarkets at Nags Head and Camden Town:
16 were cheaper in Junction Road
5 were (to the nearest 2p) as cheap in Junction Road and one of the supermarkets
10 were cheaper in one of the supermarkets in Camden Town or Nags Head
This finding that smaller shops are cheaper does not appear to be a one off as it has been replicated by other community groups, notably in Newington Green, also in Islington. And back in 2006 the Independent newspaper found that when they compared Tesco, Ethicalfoods.com and Graig Farm Organics, Tesco was cheaper on some, but not all products. So bread was cheaper at the supermarket, but milk for example was actually cheaper at Graig Farm.
Express and Local stores run by the big supermarkets have been found to be significantly more expensive than their larger outlets according to research by Money Mail. This is because while the retailers advertise low prices on certain products, those prices only apply in the main stores. The added costs in the smaller Tesco outlets was found to be around 4% and at Sainsbury’s and M&S 5-10%.
For more on the issue of supermarkets and their potential impacts see www.tescopoly.org.