The supermarkets confusing us with multibuy offers

·3-min read
City Views - London
City Views - London

Unless you buy in bulk, then bargain hunters should beware of shopping at Waitrose, because instead of simply offering discounts on groceries, it favours multibuys. These are no friend of the true bargain hunter, because they can end up persuading us to buy more - and spend more - and they can confuse people into thinking they are getting a better deal than they actually are.

A report by MySupermarket for Which? found that almost two thirds of the deals the supermarket was offering in April, May and June were multibuys - although it's worth pointing out that Waitrose's own figures show multibuys constitute closer to a third of its deals.

Regardless of the exact figure, this still means an array of multibuys on offer in the store.

Does it matter?

While they do often constitute a good discount, they are flawed in a few ways. First, if the item is perishable, then there's a reasonable chance they will go off before we get round to eating them. You have to ask yourself how many mangoes you really need.

Second, it encourages us to buy more, and if we are on a budget, this can destroy our carefully calculated spending plans. Third, it encourages us to consume more. We might tell ourselves we will put that second giant bag of crisps at the back of the cupboard until next week, but studies show there's a good chance it won't make it to Friday untouched.

And finally, multibuys can be trickier to calculate. On a quick fly-past of an item, would you be able to calculate your saving on an item that's normally on sale for £1.67 and is being offered at 3 for £5? - It's actually a saving of a penny. That's not to say that multibuys are actually trying to mislead us, it's purely a matter of whether our speedy mental arithmetic is up to it.

The most discounts

At the other end of the spectrum was Sainsbury's, where 97% of food offers were straightforward discounts. This was a very deliberate policy brought in by Sainsbury's after its own research found that people preferred discounts. It planned to phase multibuys out altogether by August this year.

Next in line was Asda, where 59% of deals are straightforward reductions, then Tesco where 57% of deals are discounts, and Morrisons where 54% are.

The good news for discount fans is that a recent study by market intelligence firm IRI found that shops are gradually moving away from multibuys and have done for the past 12 months - during which time the number of 'deep-discount multibuys' has fallen 40%.

Research for Marketing Week earlier this year found that Morrisons had cuts its multibuys 18% in the previous 12 moths, Tesco had cut them 16% and Asda 12%. Waitrose had also cut them 6% and only Ocado had seen them rise - 5%.

The experts argue, however, that we're not going to see an end to multibuys any time soon. The world of the supermarkets has never been so competitive, and we can expect them to use every marketing weapon at their disposal in their fight for market share.

But what do you think? Do you care how discounts work, as long as your shopping is cheaper, or do you distrust a multibuy? Let us know in the comments.

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