Whether, and if so why and for what types of products , it might it be beneficial for consumers if non grocery retailers in Australia had to provide unit prices for relevant prepackaged products?
At present only grocery retailers have to provide unit prices and only for grocery items. However, in many European countries all types of retailers (for example chemists, hardware stores, stationers, and retailers of pet supplies) have to provide unit prices for a wide range of prepackaged products. And, grocery retailers have to provide unit prices for non grocery items sold.
Whether the minimum floor area of 1000 sq m for compulsory provision of unit prices by grocery retailers should be reduced?
In the UK it is 280 sq m.
In turn though it needs to be better regulated as to what is a ‘unit’. For example lets take pet food.
Brand X is $100 for 20Kgs
Brand Y is $60 for 15Kgs
The Unit price you’d expect to see is $5/Kg for brand X and $4/Kg for Brand Y.
However that unit price is useless, because on the back of the packet Brand X says feed 250g/day, and brand Y says feed 350g/day. So brand X winds up being $1.25/day and brand Y winds up being $1.50/day.
Brand Y is actually more expensive, but takes advantage of poor unit pricing. It should display cost/day.
Good work if you read all that. The moral of the story is there first needs to be a standard unit used for each type of product to ensure it actually makes it easy to compare prices, not just more confusing.
The same goes for other examples eg medications. I once bought a supplement because it was cheaper per tablet, just to realise I had to take SIXTEEN tablets/day
Where does the arbitrary line fall with say a Coles Express, or 7-eleven?
Both are really extensions of a single really big store.
One recent example suggests there should be no lower limit. A recent pop up roadside stall holder near here leads the way? While most stalls sell fruit by the kilo or each, this stall was selling ice boxes or eskies, nothing else.
Prominent road side signage as you passed proudly offered the product at $2.00 per litre!
If a small road side stall can do it, so can every other retail outlet?
P.S. I was left wondering what would be offered if you were to ask for 12.5l and there were some only 10’s or 20’s our the back?
I also later checked at Woolies and the trend has not caught on there yet. Although they appeared to have a much better price per litre once I found the calculator function on the phone.
While that seems a good point, consider how easy it is to game that metric of ‘serve size’ by merely changing it, no science or reasoning required as it stands. It would need to be augmented by (in your example) how much nourishment constitutes a ‘daily standard serve’. (@ijarratt is on top of such issues.)
Imagine the debates and hand wringing about what that might be where even the dodgiest companies demand a definition so they can look good. And so it goes with any product used by measure.
Even an ‘apple a day keeps the doctor away’ but what does that mean, ‘each’ or ‘X grams’?
I often wonder why any retailer should be exempt from unit pricing pre-packaged products, although I understand the case for small mum and pop shops or those with low turnover. In these days of everything being an app or computer generated, even a small shops basic accounting program could be able to generate price stickers having unit prices, or at least the relevant information, no extra steps required. I am aware that may not be a current feature but as simple an add-on as it could be. Set a date for compliance, and their capital cost for updated software is a business expense so the cost should not be a barrier.
My guess is the powers that be are trying to equate floor space with turnover. I suggest floor space should be replaced by turnover. Although accounting can be dodgy and game the system I think most small businesses would get tired of it after a few years and just do the right thing, whinging or not.
I understand what you’re saying there, but let’s look at the example of medications instead then. It would be so easy to just half the dose of each pill and say on the back to take double. Per pill it’s now half the price.
The point I’m trying to make is we need a standard unit of measurement for each category, rather than the retailer deciding what measurement to use. Because if the retailer can choose it’s so easy to game the system (especially comparing 2 products in different formats like laundry powder vs liquid)
I’m not sure what the trade measurement laws allow. However, even if it is allowed, I don’t think it is beneficial for price transparency. We have enough problems with products being unit price by weight or per each with out having to also contend with volume as a unit of measure for solid products.
We have that to some extent at the moment with the standard units of measure in the Code (per 100g, 100mL, etc) and the special units of measure it requires for some products (mainly the use of per kg not per 100g for products commonly sold loose from bulk which are unit priced per kg)…
The problems occur mainly when:
more than one unit of measure is used to for the unit price of the the same product/category.
there are great differences in the concentration, amount of active ingredient, etc of products
I agree. Differences in the amount of active ingredient per tablet have to be taken into account when comparing the unit prices of these types of products. Ideally, but difficult to achieve, the unit price should be per amount of active ingredient.
In which case the code needs to be reformed to recognise this a bit better. I understand it’s limited what can be put on a price ticket, but a system like how Choice compares costs would still be better imo.
So for example in the case of laundry products cost per wash according to the instructions. Yeah people would have to go to a website or read a fact sheet to see how it was calculated, but it would give a much more reliable idea of what product is cheaper.
Yes, it would be better if the unit price for these products was per standardised wash and having the unit per per kg/litre/tablet reduces our ability to use it to make accurate comparisons between products.
However, the present system is better than nothing because it is does allow easy and accurate comparison of the value for money of different pack sizes of the same product.
How good a product is is always going to be down to the consumer to research. A clear way to tell which are the cheap products and which are expensive should be provided by the retailer. And imo a cost per weight/volume doesn’t do that as well as it could for some products. Cost per use is more complicated to establish but a far more reliable way to judge price. Personally I’d just like to see this addressed BEFORE unit prices move into more specialized areas.
Full disclosure I have worked in specialty retail. One of the biggest challenges I faced was helping people understand that the price per volume/weight wasn’t an accurate way to compare many products. I normally asked people about their use and calculated what the cost per use/day was going to be. A lot of people were amazed at how much of a difference that made to what is the cheapest option.
Thanks for getting back to the original question about requiring the provision of unit pricing by non-grocery retailers.
Would issues with unit of measure used to show the unit price of some products be significantly greater at non-grocery retailers than at grocery retailers?
Especially bearing in mind that whenever unit price is used to compare the value for money of more than the same product in different package sizes, types of packaging, or loose from bulk, you need to also take into account other possible differences such as quality/performance/output, as well as many others such as country of origin.
I agree with all your points there. The reason I believe it’s more important at specialized retailers is there’s a much greater difference in the strength of products across a single range.
For example whilst Coles might have one or two weed sprays for example, Bunnings has 10. Some designed for a football field and some designed for a home garden. That’s a massive difference in strength that should be considered when looking at unit pricing.