Supermarket price war will save you a measly $6

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YMM compared Coles’ and Woolworths’ online grocery prices for January 2011 and February 2012 to determine if real prices have dropped over the past year. 
 
To collect the data, we put together an online shopping trolley filled with 24 premium brands of necessities (including milk, bread, eggs, and breakfast cereal) and commonly purchased goods (including chocolate biscuits, soft drinks, instant coffee, and shampoo). 
 
How do the supermarkets compare?
 
This time last year, YMM’s virtual 24-item shopping trolley would have cost $108.53 at Coles and $103.24 at Woolworths. Coles has since reduced the price of 13 out of the 24 goods, while Woolworths has reduced the price of 12. The average saving on discounted goods is 90 cents per item at Coles, and $1.00 per item at Woolworths. 
 
However, both stores also increased the price of nine out of the 24 items. Coles’ average increase was 60 cents, while Woolworths’ was 92 cents. 
 
Taking these price changes into account, the same 24-item trolley will now set you back $101.69 at Coles and $98.30 at Woolworths. This represents a $6.84 saving at Coles and a $4.94 saving at Woolworths, but while Coles boasts a greater overall price drop, Woolworths is still the cheaper option. 
 
Have prices gone down?
 
With all the hype around supermarket price wars, you might expect to see a significant reduction in your overall shopping bill. the truth, though, is that discounts do not apply evenly across all products, and some products have actually increased in price. 
 
This means the amount of cash saved on your weekly shopping trip is dependent on which items you buy. For example, if you purchase a 2L bottle of Daily Juice Co orange juice you will pay $1.52 less at Coles and $1.08 less at Woolworths than you would have one year ago. 
 
However, this saving will be more than offset if you also buy a 100g packet of Nescafe Gold instant coffee, which has seen a price increase of $2.27 at Coles and $2.29 at Woolworths over the same period. 
 
Coles and Woolworths have been accused of maintaining profit margins by quietly increasing the price of luxury goods while advertising discounts on basics such as bread, milk, and eggs, but YMM’s research does not support this claim. 
 
While the price of Wonder White Sliced Sandwich Bread hasdropped in both stores, onlyWoolworths has dropped the price of Dairy Farmers Full Cream Milk. Woolworths hasalso increased the price of Pace Farm Free Range Eggs, while Coles has kept the price of both milk andeggs steady. Overall, discounts (along with price increases) appear to be spread evenly across both luxury and basic products.
 
Pantene shampoo, Panadol painkillers, and Palmolive dishwashing liquid are now cheaper at both stores, while Coca Cola soft drink, Rexonadeodorant, and Weet-Bix cereal are more expensive. 
 
Which products are cheaper and which are more expensive?
 
% price change, Feb 2012 vs Jan 2011
Item Coles Woolworths
Dairy Farmers Full Cream Milk 2L 0% -36%
Wonder White Sliced White Sandwich Bread -10% -10%
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil 500mL -8% -7%
Schweppes Mineral Water 1.25L +6% -53%*
Pace Farm Free-Range Eggs 12pk 0% +39%
White Wings Plain Flour 1 kg - <1% 0%
Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate 200g +1.2% -28%

 

Disclaimer

  • Prices were recorded on 18 January 2011, 1 February 2011, 8 February 2011 and 16 February 2012.
  • *Schweppes Mineral Water 1.25L was heavily discounted by Woolworths in the week in which its price was recorded.

 

-- By Rebecca Cleaver

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