Back in 1996, Woolworths was the first supermarket to announce plans to sell petrol, and also the first with a discount offer of four cents per litre for spending $30 or more at any of its stores.
The move into selling petrol isn’t just a diversification into another product: think one-stop shopping again. One retail industry expert said supermarkets see the move as an opportunity to increase "share of stomach" sales by improving the “poor retail offer by traditional petrol retailers”. Coles told us that petrol and grocery retailing “are now converging”.
What they mean is that when you stop to fill up at their petrol stations, both Coles and Woolworths hope you’ll also make a few quick grocery ‘splurchases’ at the convenience store there. There’s a trap, of course: grocery items tend to cost more at these shops than in a normal supermarket.
But how much are you really saving with the petrol discounts anyway? According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, motorists used an average of 26.5 L of petrol a week (based on the latest 12-month figures, November 2006 to October 2007).
That's a saving of $1.06 per week with the discounts — an amount that could easily disappear on one impulse buy.
Make sure the petrol offer works in your favour.
- Get a feel for prices at supermarket petrol outlets, try to resist impulse buys there.
- Don’t drive out of your way to collect the 4 ¢/L discount.
All loyalty programs are designed to encourage you to buy more in a particular store — and we must fall for them, or the companies wouldn’t spend money to run them. We'll be taking a close look at the value of loyalty schemes in the near future. In the meantime, check out our comparison of store rewards credit cards.