Price war 2017: Woolworths vs Spar vs Pick n Pay vs Checkers

South African consumers have hit hard times over the past few years as a creeping GDP growth, high unemployment and many political shocks continued to weigh on the economy.

This week, GDP data from Stats SA showed that South Africa has officially entered into a recession, with economists predicting tough times ahead for consumers, as more ratings downgrades are in the pipeline, which will ultimately put further pressure on the pocket.

One of the key components of South Africa’s slide into recession was a cut in consumer spending, in everything from recreation, clothing and transport, to even basic needs categories like food.

And South Africa’s biggest food retailers are feeling the pinch.

In April, Pick n Pay missed expectations for its full year earnings citing strained consumer spending as shoppers sought out cheaper options – which appeared to drive them to Shoprite’s doors, who reported a 14% growth in turnover in its latest financial year.

Woolworths, which has consistently positioned itself as a ‘premium’ food store, has seemed to weather the storm, with its latest results for FY2016 showing a 24% growth in profit from its food segment – which makes up 37% of the group’s total turnover.

A weakening economy and drought conditions hit South African food prices hard in 2016, with food inflation hitting close to 12% throughout the year. With a record yield from crops expected in 2017, some relief is on the cards – but the recession and other expected economic woes are likely to keep the pressure on consumers.

In the latest assessment of prices across South African retailers, we found that there has not been much a shift among South Africa’s food retailers.

When shopping for the BusinessTech basket of goods, Woolworths still checks out at the highest price – though it is apparent that, with the exception of Shoprite, competitors have struggled to keep prices low.

The BusinessTech Basket of Goods

For our basket, we look at some essential and non-essential food products. The basket contains 12 items, with store-brands priced for each item where available. The table below shows the pricing:

Product Description Woolworths Spar Pick n Pay Checkers
Apples 1.5kg R22.99 R22.99 R19.99 R19.99
Bread Brown, one loaf R13.99 R7.99 R7.99 R8.69
Cabbage One head R15.99 R17.99 R13.99 R11.99
Coca Cola 2 litres R16.95 R15.99 R14.99 R16.49
Eggs 6 extra-large R25.99 R11.99 R18.99 R14.99
Flour Self-raising, 2.5kg R37.40 R39.99 R38.99 R29.99
Maize Ace, 2.5kg R27.95 R25.99 R23.99 R23.99
Margarine Rama, 500g R25.99 R25.99 R25.99 R17.99
Milk Full cream, 2 litres R27.95 R26.99 R23.99 R21.99
Rice White, 2kg R27.95 R24.99 R31.99 R17.99
Sugar White, 2.5kg R40.95 R39.99 R35.00 R34.99
Tea 100 bags R24.95 R14.99 R17.49 R24.95
Total R309.05 R275.88 R273.39 R244.04

Prices were sourced in-store from stores around Centurion and cross-checked online, where applicable. Promotional prices, where marked, were not taken into account. Woolworths self-raising flour prices were determined on a per kg basis. In-store prices are subject to change depending on individual regions and promotions.

Prices have increased significantly in some cases, compared to the mid-2015 review. This is most notable in sugar and maize, which were impacted by drought conditions in the country during the interim period.

The most striking difference between the 2015 and 2017 reviews is that Pick n Pay, which was ranked as the cheapest basket in 2015, is now extremely close to being the second-most expensive, a few rands under Spar.

Checkers, which has positioned itself as the more affordable option, has lived up to that reputation, with many of its prices actually decreasing between 2015 and 2017.


Read: South Africa’s economy is officially in recession

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