Unit pricing: CHOICE survey

CHOICE released new survey data today around unit pricing issues.

From the article:

44% Australian shoppers are using unit pricing to reduce their grocery spending.

97% of shoppers who use unit pricing find it helpful.

But 71% have also had problems using it in supermarkets:

** 35% say the unit price was not always displayed*
** 34% say unit pricing text was difficult to read*
** 31% say unit pricing was obstructed or covered by another label*

You can read more here:

Or watch the summary video on Youtube:

Interesting comments from @ijarratt around supermarket issues around unit pricing:

“Why do we tolerate this high level of problems? Supermarkets make sure you can read the selling price of a product, yet the unit price is the only one they are required by law to display prominently and legibly,” he says.

*"Supermarkets need to make it much easier for consumers to notice, read, understand and use the unit prices. They should be prominent and legible wherever the product is displayed, whether that’s on the top, middle or bottom shelves. That might mean greatly increasing font size and angling labels out if they’re on upper or lower shelves. *

“There also needs to be greater consistency in the units of measure used for the unit prices,” he says.

We’ve closed a number of the older unit pricing threads so we can collect recent unit pricing issues here - please share your thoughts and experiences below.

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A fav at Woolies is a veg that comes both prepacked and loose. The prepack is unit priced per each [pack].

The same veg also comes loose and is priced per kg.

Many examples at grocers with similar disparate unit prices for the same product that are packaged differently.

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I have no issues with unit pricing, and extensively use it. Not only to compare to see the value price per kg. If consider the product too expensive for contents made from > weight > versus $ value, leave it on the shelf.
Where something is priced per pack in the fruit and veg (which I try and avoid), I will take the package and weigh it to see how the package price compares to the kg price. Have no problems using unit pricing.
The Coles store and Woolworths stores I shop at are good with price tickets. Woolworths in particular. Our Woolworths store manager is top store out of 52 stores in his region he proudly told me on Saturday. Staff will immediately fix any issue if pointed out to them. In the main the Woolworths staff get a 10/10, unlike Coles 6/10.

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[quote=“PhilT, post:2, topic:28846”]
Many examples at grocers with similar disparate unit prices for the same product that are packaged differently.

These problems are due mainly to the requirements of the Trade Measurement legislation which for example allows some products, esp fruit and veg, to be offered for sale loose priced either per kg or per each and if packaged for the package to show either the number in it or the net weight. And, if the package is transparent and the number of items is less than 9 there is no need to indicate the number of items.

Also, since some retailers (e.g Aldi) do not provide scales for use by customers it is not always possible for those (very few?) consumers to get the weight of products being sold by count in order to be able to make price per kg comparisons.

Recently at Aldi, very similar/identical US Navel oranges we were on sale loose for $5.99 per kg or $4.99 for a bag of 5. Out of interest I bought a bag and at home found it contained almost 1 kg of oranges. So it was clearly the best buy. But I think few consumers would want, or bother, to do that.

I favour maximum use of weight for pricing products sold loose and for the display of the quantity on packaged products.However, to achieve that would require changes to Trade Measurement legislation.

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That’s not my experience.

At both stores many of the unit prices on paper shelf labels, especially those used for special offers and those on the upper and lower shelves, are too difficult (and in many cases impossible) to read without much stretching or bending.

And although Woolworths has now improved the prominence,legibility and location of the unit price on the electronic shelf labels being introduced to replace most paper shelf labels in some stores, the unit price is still very difficult or impossible for me to read on the upper and lower shelves without the stretching or bending I mentioned above…

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Never seen any of the electronic shelf labels.

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Have noticed the reintroduction of electronic price labels in a few refurbed stores. Find they have less contrast i.e. harder to read than paper labels. A nice way for the supermarkets to save money. Just let the badges be updated automatically whenever the central price database changes, less labour, less shelf pricing errors, less payout for retail scanning code errors. Harder for me to shop, cheaper for them. The e labels will pay for themselves in no time. If both majors move to them, neither are likely to lose market share.

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Good summary of the benefits of e labels some of which in a competitive market would be received by consumers. So I do not oppose the use of e labels.

However, it is essential that all unit prices on them are easy to notice and read regardless of the shelf location. Unfortunately, this is not the situation with even the revised version. To me the big problems are the small print size (much smaller than on most of the paper labels they are replacing) and the labels on upper and lower shelves not always being angled at all or correctly to maximise the viewing angle. I agree that reduced contrast is also a problem.

I encourage anyone who is experiencing these problems with Woolworths e labels to complain to the ACCC which administers the mandatory grocery unit pricing Code.

IMO the same problems exist with the e labels Aldi is introducing in some stores and anyone who feels the same same should complain to the ACCC about these.too.

if people do not complain to the ACCC it is very difficult to get improvements..

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Some inconsistencies I have noticed with similar types of products using different units for unit pricing:

  • Boxes of tea bags - unit pricing are mixed between per tea bag, and per gram/kilogram
  • Soap in packets or groups of wrapped blocks taped together - mixed between price per block, and the weight of the blocks.
  • Liquid detergents - mixed between both weight and volume in litres.
  • Deli cheese - mixed between per piece and weight.
  • discounted items - often the discount labels show the lower price, but not the revised unit pricing for the lowered price.
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I’ve been buying a lot of batteries lately and at either Coles or Woolworths online, found a mix of correctly displayed unit prices and others for which the unit price was just listed as the full pack price. So one battery pack of 10 for $6.98 was correctly listed as 70c each, while the adjacent pack of 10 batteries for $14.99 was marked “$14.99 each”.

I went to find it now but both retailers seem to be doing it properly – perhaps someone complained.

I use unit pricing always, and agree with all the above points. Particularly frustrating is the discount labels that don’t show discounted unit prices - exactly when you want them, to compare with non-discounted package sizes.

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My experience with the ACCC put me off for life. The response (several years ago and entirely from memory) was “we may or may not follow this up with the business, and whether we do or not we won’t be giving you any feedback.”.

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I am 99.9% sure the discount labels in Woolworths and Coles show the unit pricing at the discount price. I use the Flora Pro Active margarine and always buy the tub size that is on special and compare the unit pricing.
Checked the Woolworths website, and yes, the unit pricing is on the discounted price.
I am an avid user of ‘unit pricing’. I try and be a mean Scot canny shopper.

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The website should have it right, as that is out there for all to see.

Not doubting your experience, but perhaps it varies from shop to shop, and even day to day depending on who does the discounting? I know I have frequently been frustrated having to stand and work out the discounted unit price on commodities to compare that to the standard unit price.

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Shouldn’t make any difference from shop to shop or who does the discounting in Woolworths and Coles case. All store pricing comes from the central database. The only difference is post code pricing. Only time local store pricing is in action in Woolworths case is on ‘chuckouts’/clearance items. No idea about Coles.

Again if I may disagree. I have been chatting to the chap who does a lot of the discounting of food items at our local WW while he is doing it, and he just enters the new price based on how close to the end date products are, and out comes the shiny new yellow ticket. No reference to database. Sometimes he has even discounted more when the wife woman chats with him :slight_smile:

I assume you are not talking about near end date products here. I agree. It is the store manager’s discretion as to what is discounted and by how much in this case.

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Exactly as I stated - quote “Only time local store pricing is in action in Woolworths case is on ‘chuckouts’/clearance items.” End of date are clearance/‘chuckouts’.

Actually interesting on some lines in fridge section Woolworths recently shortened the time before stores could mark down for end of date. This has I have been told has resulted in higher wastage. Was looking at some Keffir yoghurt which was reasonable short dated. The young excellent department manager was there. I asked him shouldn’t this be on mark down for short date. He said they had shortened the ability to mark down items earlier on short date, and was resulting in more wastage. My nearest Woolworths store has some excellent young department managers who all started there while at school. The store manager is 40 years at Woolworths. They send him and the young department managers to other troublesome stores in the region. The local Woolworths store won again two weeks ago the number one store in the 52 store region in all catagories. The store manager chest was a kilometre out with pride when he told me.

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Would like to see Unit Pricing in smaller supermarkets. All but one of my rural stores are too small and don’t use it, although I am sure the computer generated labels can include it. They have Unit Pricing on their Catalogue Sale tickets.

Mind you, I have a smirk at “Half Price!!” that shows they have been selling at way over RRP, eg Chocolate block - half price $3, save $4.50 - they have been selling it at $7.50 when RRP was $6. But then, factor in an hour’s fuel to save $1.50 and some things are not worth it.

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I agree. It’s not a very encouraging reply and I think it is still sent out when you complain online.

HOWEVER, despite it people should still complain online or by phone or by letter because numbers count. Rightly or wrongly, the ACCC and the govt, still pay attention to the number of complaints they receive on a topic.

I know this because when organisations complain about non-compliance with the UP Code we are always told that there are few complaints, even though surveys like CHOICE’s show that high %s of consumers many difficulties using UP and many of these difficulties are due to retailer non-compliance with the Code .

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Yes. I have seen these too and they are definitely examples of non-compliance with the UP Code.
In my experience, the incidence tends to vary between businesses.
IMO a big problem with many special offer labels is that the UP is often in much smaller print than when on the labels used when the item is not on special.

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A bigger problem is how the price tags are essentially manipulated by that presentation. I have encountered big specials of say a 250g pack that is a much higher unit price than the next to it 325g pack of the same product being sold at RRP. Consumers are visually drawn to the big special.

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