More for Poor
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More for Poor

From The Guardian, Monday 21st December 1998

Stores 'charge more in poor areas'

Retailers accused of using monopoly in poorer areas to extort excessive profits from people who can least afford it. 

Silvia Plahl reports

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THE poor are paying more than the better off this Christmas for a typical selection of seasonal goods, a consumers survey of supermarkets reveals today.

Price wars between rival suburban outlets have added to the pinch in low income areas, where poor transport and limited choice create a virtually captive market.

Stark contrasts in the checks on 100 stores include a 59p offer for Sainsbury's 100g pack of own-brand coffee in relatively comfortable Crosby, Merseyside, compared with 1.79 for Kwik Save's own brand at Heathtown, West Midlands, an area of very high deprivation.

The total basket at Crosby Sainsbury, including turkey, sprouts and crackers, cost 32.32 - 10 less than the same order at Sainsbury, Cavendish Drive, a few miles away but in a much less well-off area.

The survey, carried out in the second week of December by the charity Citizen Organising Foundation (COF), will be sent to the Office of Fair Trading by the group, which is also seeking talks with the leading supermarkets.

Peter Powers, of COF, said:

"This survey, carried out by ordinary people in their own communities, shows how retailers use their local monopoly power in poorer neighbourhoods to extort excessive profits from the people who can least afford it."

The COF monitors, based on churches, schools, mosques, trade unions and other local groups, checked prices of basic goods, including soup, vegetables and bread, along with Christmas specialities like pudding and satsumas. The survey at branches of Tesco, Sainshury, Somerfield, Asda, the Co-op and Kwik Save found the four most expensive baskets at Sainsbury in Wolverhampton town centre (54.59), Tesco in Canary Wharf, east London (49.33), Sainsbury in White- chapel, east London (48.70), and Somerfield in Hackney, east London (47.16). The lowest price was at Kwik Save, in middle income Tettenhall, Wolverhampton (29.70).

Yvonne Hayes, aged 46, a mother of four, went to Tesco in Parson Cross, north Sheffield, one of the largest council estates in Europe. "It was interesting because I don't usually shop there. Actually it wasn't a bad shop for this area. You get bread for 19p and a tin of beans is 9p. But there were several Christmas puddings at 7.50. I did wonder how many people on the estate could afford that."

Mandy Aitken, aged 34, also a mother of four and organiser of Sheffield's COF group, Impact, claimed:

"There's a degree of evidence that supermarkets seem to be charging more in poorer areas, either because of competition in the middle-class estates or because people on the working-class estate haven't the chance to get away to the out-of-town centres. You are sort of penalised for having to shop locally."

Kwik Save and the Co-op came out in the survey at the bottom of the price range, but local variations were also marked.

Mr Powers said: "We hope the Office of Fair Trading report to be published in the new year will encourage the Government to constrain the alarming power of the big four retailers."

COF will conduct follow-up surveys in the new year.


Price check

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The monitors' basket:

Frozen turkey (5kg), Christmas pudding (1kg), potatoes (5 kg), large white sliced bread, six eggs, coffee (l00g), 100 tea- bags, 4 cans soup, margarine (500g), tomatoes (1kg), iceberg lettuce, cucumber, sprouts (2 kg), satsumas (2kg), streaky bacon (500g), cola (2ltr), 12 crackers, half-bottle whisky

Kwik Save

Cheapest: Tettenhall, 29.70. Dearest: Wrexham, 36.95


Cheapest: Tipton, West Mid lands, 31.12. Dearest: Beckton, east London, 42.07


Cheapest: Bethnal Green, east London, 36.22. Dearest: Canary Wharf, east London 49.33


Cheapest: Crosby, 32.32. Dearest: Wolverhampton, 54.59


Cheapest: Willenhall, West Mid lands, 30.99. Dearest: Hack ney, east London, 47.16


Cheapest: Margetson Cresc, Liverpool, 34.78. Dearest: Sou they Green, Liverpool, 36.48.