While consumers may be basking in lower prices they have to wade through increasingly opaque and confusing messages from the big four.

While consumers may be basking in lower prices – driven by the raging price war – they have to wade through increasingly opaque and confusing messages from the big four.

Obsessed with claiming to have outdone one another on price, the big supermarkets are leaving their shoppers bewildered.  

So when it emerged at the weekend that Morrisons had actually increased the price of certain products – despite the fact that it has been among the most forceful in shouting about “permanently” low prices, whether using its now binned ‘I’m cheaper’ strapline or its current ‘Everyday Low Prices’ – sadly it came as little surprise.

Morrisons said the increases represented “commodity inflation” and were not an attempt to boost margins. It stated that of the 1,500 reduced prices, only 107 had gone up, despite “inflationary pressures”.

Yet Bernstein’s Bruno Monteyne has blasted Morrisons, claiming its promises are confusing and impossible to keep, and lambasting the grocer for continually changing its message.

He also cited one important misunderstanding that all the big four grocers can be accused of: the discounters they are so painfully trying to compete with on price offer more than just cheap goods.

Discounter quality

It’s an open secret now that Aldi and Lidl’s keenly priced products are actually pretty decent quality, and therefore represent good value for money. As they grow their ranges, and – in contrast to the big four rivals – remain rooted to their simple pricing strategies, they will no doubt attract more and more shoppers.

So how should the big four react? By offering something different, and listening to the needs of their customer.

That has been the rhetoric coming from Tesco’s new boss Dave Lewis, who is yet to make his first strike in a bid to turn around the embattled grocer. However, part of his plan must include price. And while Tesco may be beleaguered, it still has plenty of firepower, and Morrisons could find itself first in the firing line.