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8th May 2012

Is Sainsbury’s Fallowfield ripping us off?

We’ve heard the rumour that the Sainsbury is Fallowfield is the most expensive one in the country, but is it?

With a market share of up to 17 percent, Sainsbury’s is the third biggest supermarket chain in the country behind Tesco and Asda, but in Fallowfield Sainsbury’s arguably benefits from a monopoly.

Tesco and the Co-operative stores are also in close proximity to most students residing in Fallowfield, but neither of them is big enough to offer the wide range of products available at Sainsbury’s. This gives Sainsbury’s a very privileged position; they sell what others don’t and therefore attract the majority of regional consumers almost by default. There is, however, a suspicion that Sainsbury’s are taking advantage of this scarcity power by setting their prices higher than the market average.

To determine whether this was fact or fiction, we went to Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Lidl and bought an identical basket of products from each one. The basket included 12 generic student purchases such as pasta, ten-inch pizzas and beer. None of the goods purchased were from the basics or values range; nine were house brands and the other three were recognised brand products that can be located at any store.

Contrary to popular belief, Sainsbury’s was not the most expensive supermarket from the sample.  Whilst the basket purchased at Lidl was predictably cheaper than the other two stores at £17.17, the purchases from Sainsbury’s amounted to £20.39, just over 50p shy of the £20.97 total from Tesco express.

On top of shopping at the mentioned locations, the same basket of goods was also purchased from the Sainsbury’s online store. This was to check if there was any truth to the widespread rumour that the Sainsbury’s in Fallowfield is more expensive than its other outlets. Results point towards the most expensive Sainsbury’s myth to be just that. The basket amounted to exactly the same as the basket purchased in Fallowfield.

As these results show the problem isn’t Sainsbury’s, it’s inflation. Since the beginning of 2010, the rate has not fallen below three percent and has at times soared above the two percent target by the Bank of England, consequently putting a strain on students.

There are social ramifications to these higher inflation levels. Students intent on getting more for less will consider unorthodox methods to save money, even if it means stealing.  A common tactic used by shoplifters was to subtly pick up a crate of beer on offer at the entrance of the Fallowfield Sainsbury’s and walk straight out of the door with a random receipt in their mouth to cast away any suspicion of stealing. Countermeasures have now been put in place to prevent such fraudulent behaviour. Whenever a crate of beer is purchased, staff immediately place orange tape across it to signify that it has been rightfully purchased.

Alternative cost-saving methods include freeganism. Cost wary customers may wish to trawl through the Sainsbury’s bins to pick out any food that has been discarded by the supermarket because it is approaching its sell by date. An anonymous source who has regularly been ‘bin diving’ told us that although it is illegal, the behaviour can be justified. “With money at such a premium, it seems stupid not to pick out unwanted food that is in perfectly good condition. I consider myself a champion of conservation!” they said.

The cost of effort is much higher for students than other demographics and Sainsbury’s could indeed capitalize on a large group of people too lazy to venture to lower profile supermarkets that are perhaps cheaper. Their prices, however, are merely a reflection of increasing prices in every industry. Until inflation falls, Sainsbury’s are going to have to shoulder the blame from angry students who are struggling to cope with rising prices.

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