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Sainsbury’s is listening to customers saying bogof to multibuys

The Grocer

Another week, another brave move by Sainsbury’s, with its plans to scrap all multibuys by August. I’m not sure about the Argos deal, but I really think this one is clever. Even if many suppliers will hate it.

Scrapping multibuys makes life simpler for the shopper. There’s less likelihood of waste. It doesn’t disadvantage singletons and OAPs. It doesn’t steer shoppers towards choices they didn’t want to make. There’s even a health and obesity case. So much so Sainsbury’s wheeled out health minster Jane Ellison to give it the thumps up.

I’ve been saying for years that supermarket pricing is too complicated. I’ve called it deliberate obfuscation. Supermarkets have been kidding themselves that if you offer the shopper a blizzard of deals, they somehow won’t spot the face you’ve actually put prices up. And shoppers haven’t bought it. They’ve realised they can buy similar goods down the road at Aldi or Lidl for significantly less. Without the bull. In half the time.

Of course it’s still possible to confuse the shopper even with save-only deals. Is that 50% reduction a real reduction? Or is it permanently at that level? Etc etc. But at least you can make a fair comparison.

Sainsbury’s has been reducing its use of multibuys for some time now. Multibuys accounted for 29.6% of its promotions mix in 2015 versus from 33.8% the year before (Assosia) as it’s focused on offering more save-only deals. In fact all supermarkets have been following this strategy to a greater or lesser degree – at least in share terms. What’s notable is how many multibuys Asda still offers. And in line with its marked increase in promotions more generally, Asda’s actual multibuy figures are going up too.

Now Sainsbury’s is going the whole hog and telling the multibuy to bogof completely. So will this be a surefire success? I can’t guarantee it. Some people love getting two for the price of one. There will be no hiding the margin of price differential versus the discounters. And one supermarket’s moral high ground is another’s opportunity. But it’s working for Sainsbury’s and shows it’s listening to its customers.

Published in The Grocer, 12 February 2016