02.What we found
Unit pricing is widely used in some US states and in Europe (it’s a legal requirement in some countries — see International studies for more), but retailers in Australia were resistant to its introduction.
Coles and Woolworths/Safeway gave the following reasons for not previously implementing unit pricing in stores:
- Lack of consumer demand for unit pricing
- Opposition from suppliers
- Extra costs
Coles does, however, show unit pricing on its shopping website.
Consumers in Australia may not have been demanding unit pricing because they weren't aware that it can be applied to packaged goods. We think shoppers will make good use of unit pricing when it arrives, just as they already do when buying meat, vegetables and smallgoods.
David Nolan contacted us asking why shops don’t have unit pricing.
“I’m finding myself increasingly frustrated by the way big supermarkets conceal the true pricing of food by varying the quantities to odd sizes, using specials on the smaller-sized product and not the bigger size, etc,” he says.
“I’m beginning to think carrying a calculator around with me would be a good idea. I also think many consumers haven’t the time or can’t be bothered to work out the best price and hence are paying too much. Supermarkets shouldn’t be allowed to make extra profits by obscuring the true price of their goods. You can’t trust the old saying ‘Buy in bulk and save’ in all cases any more.”