Online groceries versus in-store shopping, can you save?

On 24 June we compared the online and in-store prices of the same basket of goods across four major retailers – Checkers, Pick n Pay, Woolworths and SPAR and found that some items had totally different prices depending on how you went about your shopping.

Our grocery bag contained: one loaf of white bread, a two-litre store-brand sunflower oil, 2.5kg maize meal, 2.5kg Selati sugar, one two-litre store-brand milk, a 2kg pack of Tastic rice, a 2.5kg Snowflake cake flour, one 175g of Dettol Herbal soap and an 18 pack of two-ply Baby Soft toilet rolls. 

Surprisingly, out of the four retailers we looked at, in-store shopping at Woolworths was the most affordable option at R438,91, 7% cheaper than Checkers, the most expensive option at R470,41 for the same bag of goods. 

Liz Hillock of Woolworths said, “it is deliberately our strategy to be competitively affordable and accessible to as many South African customers as possible on quality basic food items which are important to them. 

“We track pricing on thousands of items weekly and adjust prices to ensure we are competitive.”

However, online prices for the same nine products at Woolworths differed by R30,00 or 7%, in comparison to their in-store prices, minus their delivery fee.

In all the other cases the online basket total was slightly cheaper than the in-store total, without the delivery fee. SPAR was the only store that promised consistent pricing both in-store and online, and although we did find some inconsistencies, the store had only a 40 cents difference in price for all the products put together. Their website reads, “In-store prices matched. All items that you purchase, are exactly the same as you would purchase them in-store.” 

Blake Raubenheimer of SPAR said, “It’s important for SPAR to have consistent prices as we want shoppers to have a consistent customer experience, across stores, as well as across channels (online versus in-store). This is made more challenging with our independent retail model, where each SPAR store is owned individually but the Group recommends pricing strategies and consistency.”

Out of all of the items we looked at, the 2kg Tastic rice pack was priced the most consistently across all four stores. The product was cheapest at Woolworths where it was R34,99, while at the other three stores it was R35,99. 

Delivery terms and costs were slightly different across some of the stores. Checkers, Pick n Pay and SPAR offered the cheapest same-day delivery price of R35,00, while Woolworths charged R60,00 for the fastest delivery on their website or R35,00 using their app.

All things considered, online shopping, with the delivery fee included, is almost certainly the more expensive option depending on how far away you live from your grocery store. But, if petrol prices continue to surge it could soon become the preferable option.

Note: We did not include promotional prices in our comparison.

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