Pricing of household goods in supermarkets needs to be subject to closer scrutiny, both by the consumer and management, says Viccy Baker from the independent consumer price comparison website, Retail Price Watch.
Baker believes that consumers are being conditioned in advance to accept higher prices because of the drought, transport costs and electricity prices, for example.
“While price increases are inevitable, certain stores are taking advantage of consumers by pricing goods at over 50% more than they were a few months ago, pricing which surely cannot be justified under any conditions,” Baker said.
“Individual store managers under pressure to deliver profits may be partly responsible for this, or it may be that the competitive pressure on prices of certain items leads the stores to compensate by marking up other goods to previously unheard of levels.”
The practice is not confined to one chain but can be found across the chains, across the country, and in varying products.
“Cambridge Food, which says it offers ‘unbeatable value for our savings-focused customers’ has increased the price of 50kg of Lion maize meal by 58% since 1 January, when the price was R268.99.”
On 1 June, it was R424.99. The price of 5kg of Lion maize meal has increased by 20.7%, from R28.99 to R34.99.
“One Pick n Pay in Sandton is selling a 180g pack of 7 Pedigree Dentastix dog treats for R63.99, when all the other Pick n Pays in the area are selling at an average price of R42 – 52% higher. In May the price in this particular store was R37.99 – so in less than a month the price has increased by 68%,” Baker said.
“A Spar in East London is selling a 100g box of Doom Rattex for R25.99. Ten of these boxes can be purchased from Makro at R110.95 (R11 each), while other stores are selling the product for an average of R15.
Shoprite is now selling 1.75kg of Dogmor dry dog food for R64.99. In April you could buy Dogmor from most Shoprites for 42.99. This represents a 51% increase in just a month.
“These prices are not mistakes – they have all been confirmed by our data and by conversations with the staff concerned,” Baker said.
“We believe, as consumers, that we are entitled to ‘specials’ – discounted prices – but the stores have to find their profits elsewhere.
According to the retail expert, there are three ways to control this practice: compare prices with other stores in your area and choose the least expensive; complain to the management; and vote with your purse or wallet by not buying.
Viccy Baker is founder of Red Gekko’s Retail Price Watch, a consumer website dedicated to providing the latest up-to-date information on consumer good prices across South Africa. You can view and compare products on various prices here.