The UK Supermarket industry is intensely competitive. It’s hard to slot it directly into a specific market structure, but it has many characteristics of an oligopoly – a market dominated by a few firms with intense competition, both price and non-price.
This competititve aspect of the market structure has become even more important as trading conditions become harsher. The latest development sees Sainsbury’s announcing its price promotion – it will match certain prices offered by Tesco and Asda in a bid to attract customers from its rivals.
The supermarket industry has a history of intense price wars and we can only expect them to increase. This is certainly in the interests of customers, as we face ever decreasing prices. It’s a market in which it certainly pays to shop around and compare prices. The following articles consider the latest developments in one of the most competitive markets out there.
Sainsbury’s joins price cut battle The Press Association (9/10/11)
Sainsbury’s follows rivals in price promotion BBC News (9/10/11)
Every basket helps, as supermarkets battle for shoppers Independent, Laura Chesters (9/10/11)
Sainsbury to extend price match trial Financial Times, Andrea Felsted (7/10/11)
Tesco profits grow but UK sales subdued BBC News (5/10/11)
Sainsbury’s to launch price match scheme The Telegraph, Harry Wallop (7/10/11)
Retail bully boys must not protect themselves unfairly Financial Times, Sarah Gordon (7/10/11)
- What are the characteristics of an oligopoly? To what extent do you think that the supermarket industry fits into an oligopolistic market structure?
- Are the price wars being carried out by Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda in the interests of consumers?
- What aspects of non-price competition have been undertaken by the big supermarket contenders? On what factors does the relative success of these pricing strategies depend?
- What might explain the growing presence of fast food companies in the top 100?
- How could the supermarkets use the concept of elasticity in determining the most effective pricing strategy?
- How has the economic climate affected the supermarket industry? Would you expect the impact to be smaller or larger than that in other sectors of the economy? Explain your answer.