Budgeting Expert Says Vulnerable People Suffering From Countdown Removing Regular Specials
Budgeting Expert Jennifer McIvor says anecdotal feedback from her followers overwhelmingly supports the fact that Countdown’s decision to remove the regular specials during the Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand is causing vulnerable people to suffer.
Jennifer McIvor, who runs budgeting-focused online business Creating Wealth NZ, has a following on Instagram, where she regularly engages with budgeting advice, meal planning and tips for saving.
McIvor says the anecdotal evidence from her followers is clear – Countdown’s decision to remove specials on essential items, at a time where people are suffering already, is having a drastic impact on household budgets.
“I’m hearing stories of Countdown’s prices even being considered above average, from followers all over the country,” she says.
“In my own household, my husband did our grocery shop yesterday, and paid $29.19 for 1.3 kilos of chicken thighs, which on special would normally cost us $23.40”.
She says more needs to be done to regulate pricing, to ensure Countdown isn’t unfairly making additional profits during the lockdown.
“During the lockdown, supermarkets have increased demand from customers who would usually purchase from bakeries, cafes, restaurants, takeaway outlets and liquor stores. No one has the option but to purchase from supermarkets right now, so they have the monopoly in the food industry,” she says.
“Although Countdown has already commented on their current policy of not offering specials / discounts, (as seen in this Stuff article), they seem to be the only supermarket chain with this policy. It also seems Countdown is possibly taking it further, with higher than usual prices for everyday items.”
Jennifer says she is shocked that the chain is hiding behind the excuses of increased demand and staff having to change promotion tickets, when they are almost certainly receiving increased profits due to more people having to shop there.
“Have their costs from their suppliers increased? Possibly, but I doubt it. We know for sure their demand has increased. They’re potentially making much higher than normal profits, and it is extremely unfair to be taking advantage at a time like this.”
McIvor says Countdown’s policy is taking advantage of the most vulnerable, and unfortunately in some cases, consumers have no choice but to shop at Countdown.
“I know of some situations where Countdown is the only option in their town, so they have no choice but to pay these higher than normal prices” she says.
“At a time where some people’s incomes have reduced drastically or stopped altogether, their food bills are increasing, and it’s not good enough.”
Jennifer says the Government is encouraging consumers to come forward with examples, and she’d like to see Countdown play fair.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has encouraged people to send copies of their receipts to herself and the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Fa’afoi, and I encourage people to get behind this and start showing the Government what is happening.”
McIvor adds that while she understands Covid-19 is an unprecedented situation, she would like to see Countdown put people over profit.
“I understand that this Covid-19 situation has changed how we shop, and everyone is being affected, but Countdown should not be taking advantage of the vulnerable and profiteering from such a disastrous situation.”
Examples of Countdown Price Increases – direct quotes from Creating Wealth NZ followers:
- I went over budget by $150 on my usual standard shopping order. I was well over budget because of purchase restrictions and availability.
- I completed an online shop and the cheapest margarine I could find was $5.30 – MORE THAN DOUBLE what I usually pay for Margarine.
- The cheapest mince I could find was $16.
- There was a minimum order on chicken breast which was 2kgs. This meant I had to spend $20 instead of $10 because of high minimum orders.
- The cheapest 12 pack of toilet paper was $8.
- Fruit and vegetables which are in season are significantly higher. For example, for tomatoes which are in season – I paid $3.50 last week – this week $4.49
- Canned tomatoes – I usually pay 80c – the only ones I could find were $2
- Cat food – normally have buy 10 for $10 – the fancy feast are now $1.39 each
- Cheapest tomato paste $3.50 – I usually pay $2
- My budget was $300 which I increased from $275 as I knew we would need extra because items would be missing and we would have to purchase more expensive brands. However we went over by $110.41 because of no specials being applied to ANY item and the grocery bill came to $410.41 I have never spent that much on groceries before!
- My budget is $300 – we went over by $79.07 – no additional purchases from our usual shop and this includes items missing from our grocery list.