Tesco to plough £5 million into swingometer price check ads
Tesco will today ratchet up the price war between the supermarkets by spending£5 million on an ad blitz in an effort to show it is cheaper than its rivals.

The UK's biggest retailer has borrowed Peter Snow's famous swingometer as it aims to trash Asda's claim it is the UK's cheapest supermarket. Tesco will use the device on TV, in newspapers and in stores to demonstrate how its prices compare on the 10,000 items that feature on its online Price Check facility. Asda bases its claim to be cheapest on a survey of just 33 items.

Tesco's initiative is the latest sign of the growing intensity of the battle over price, as consumers feel the pinch from rising interest rates. Last week, the Bank of England increased rates for the fifth time in less than a year.

As well as being promoted on TV and in newspapers, Tesco will advertise the price offensive in its larger stores, where it will place a swingometer in foyers that will be updated weekly.

The swingometer will show how many of the 10,000 items are cheaper at Tesco than at Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons. However, it will also display where its competitors are cheaper. The price checks are collected independently in stores every week.

A Tesco spokesman described the new approach as 'very in your face'. He said: 'We know customers are particularly sensitive about prices at present, but they don't want claim and counterclaim,' he said.

The campaign is likely to trigger retaliation from the other grocers and is expected to prompt a response from Asda in particular, which has made a huge play of coming top of a weekly magazine survey that assesses a basket of 33 items.

A price war has broken out between the big grocers amid increasing concerns about consumer spending power. Last month, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons all announced price cuts totalling tens of millions of pounds, as research showed that shoppers only have 22 per cent of their gross income to spend on shopping and leisure.

 The Competition Commission has stated that Tesco's ownership of non-trading sites could have an anti-competitive effect.

In its grocery inquiry's working paper on land holdings, it said Tesco has a tendency to hold on to sites for longer in areas where it has a large share of sales than in those where it does not.

'Such a pattern of behaviour is consistent with the strategic holding of land to prevent entry into areas of strength,' it said.