Bulk bins and aisles of temptation

Liz from Tauranga has written in about the cost of bulk bin goods, finding that in many cases, the cost was higher than the equivalent packaged product. Liz’s comment is consistent with an exercise carried out by the NZ Herald in April. They found in most cases that unpackaged products were more expensive, and quite often significantly so. This will come as a surprise to those who want to minimise packaging waste. It seems savings on the packaging costs does not offset the other costs a bulk retailer faces – like wastage and extra costs for hygiene. It seems at least in the supermarkets, packaging free products are likely to appeal to those wanting very small quantities of a speciality item for a one-off recipe. Otherwise, it’ a case of frugal shopper beware. Fortunately, the display of per unit pricing has made the frugal shopper’s life easier – especially if they forget to bring their calculator!

We consumers are getting bombarded with reasons to part with our money, and supermarkets are of course no different. Here are some things to keep in mind as you cruise the aisles of your favourite supermarket.

Impulse and temptation have quite a lot to do with store layout. Ever noticed that getting to the milk fridge usually involves a maze-like journey through various isles of really tempting products, like chocolate bars and biscuits – all positioned at hand height to minimise the time between the eye seeing the temptations and the hand placing the items in your trolley? It’s no coincidence!

Likewise, the low price-point temptations found at the checkout, that are there crying out “don’t forget me” – just in case there still happens to be a gold coin that hasn’t been shaken loose from the bottom of your purse!

Another trick is the placing of products on shelves, with expensive items in the most convenient position. This can be a real nuisance for those of advancing years, with backs that have lost the flexibility of youth, since the best value buys tend to be in locations requiring the suppleness of a circus trapeze artist – but the pain and effort is still worth it!

The thing that most excites the frugal shopper is not the eye level temptations but the specials. By our reckoning, bargain buying can save 10% off the grocery bill. The trick is to buy bargains that are either needed or store well in the pantry.

The other thing to watch is what we call the “getting lost in the crowd” effect, where the effect of adding another item gets lost in an already crowded trolley. The trick here is to see every item as a single purchase that is run through the scrutiny and interrogation test for value and need.