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Price war: Spar vs Pick n Pay vs Checkers – 2012 to 2016

| Economic factors

Consumer site, Retail Price Watch has compared the prices of 50 national brands from Spar, Pick n Pay and Checkers stores across the country between 2012 – 2016.

A food basket survey published by the Markets and Economic Research Centre (MERC) earlier this month showed that food prices in South Africa have increased 8.7% between December 2014 – December 2015 – exceeding the inflation rates of the consumer price index (CPI).

According to AgriSA, white maize prices have increased by 150% over the past 12 months, with yellow maize prices up by 80%.

Industry analysts haveed predict that food prices in the country would likely shoot up by another 10% by the middle of 2016 (hitting 25% higher by April 2017), while AgriSA says food prices will be 15% higher by the end of 2016, affecting the poorest of the poor – who spend up to 40% of total income on food – hardest.

According to the data from Retail Price Watch, in January 2012 a basket of 50 identical grocery items cost R1,033 in Spar, R1,036 in Checkers and R1,058 in Pick n Pay – a differential between Spar as the cheapest and Pick n Pay as the most expensive of only 2.4%.

By January 2015 the same basket cost R1,120 in Pick n Pay, R1,214 in Checkers and R1,237 in Spar. Pick n Pay came in cheaper but the difference between the three stores remains marginal at 3.1%.

By January 2016 the basket was the least expensive (R1,281) at Checkers, R1,316 at Pick n Pay and R1,351 at Spar, with the differential widening to 5.4%.


Average Basket January 2012

Average Basket January 2015

Average Basket January 2016

Rate of inflation 2012-2015 (3 year average)

Rate of inflation 2015-2016


R1 032.99

R1 237.28

R1 350.69



Pick n Pay

R1 057.94

R1 199.86

R1 316.02




R1 035.85

R1 214.17

R1 281.36




“At the moment Spar’s prices for the 50 goods are the highest but the data suggests that the chains’ pricing fluctuates over time and that one should never assume there is a single ‘best value for money’ store,” said Viccy Baker of Retail Price Watch.

Checkers average inflation rate was 5.44% for the 3 years prior to 2015. In 2015 it was 5.53% for the basket.

Spar’s basket average inflation rate was 6.2% for the same three years, rising to 9.17% in 2015.

Pick n Pay’s basket average inflation rate was 4.28 for the three years prior, while in 2016 it was 9.68%.

Some of the items that saw the biggest price increase between 2015 and 2016 are:

Maize: up to 49% higher

Spaghetti: up to 28% higher

Herbs and spices: up to 32% higher

Cleaning gel: up to 19% higher

You can find the full list of items covered in the study here: Price Comparison 2012 – 2016

Baker said that the chains compensate for the lower margins on the advertised “specials” which are used to draw people into the stores, by improving their margins on other goods.

“It is a case of ‘consumer beware’ as often today larger packs or quantities of items come in at a higher price per kg than smaller packs, for example,” she said.

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