Almost half of consumers have noticed ‘surge pricing’ at busy times – survey

Almost half of consumers have noticed a rise in ‘surge pricing’ – when retailers increase their prices at times of peak demand – a survey has found.

Of the 47% who have noticed a growing trend of retailers adjusting their prices in response to supply and demand – also known as ‘dynamic pricing’ – 32% have experienced pubs and bars raising the price of food and drink at peak times such as evenings, weekends and during major sports events, according to a poll for Barclays.

It follows pub company Stonegate Group, which owns chains including Slug & Lettuce and Yates, confirming last month it will charge customers about 20p more for a pint of beer at some of its locations during the busiest periods to cover rising costs.

But while some pubs and bars may be charging more when trade is busier, just 8% of consumers are willing to pay more to eat and drink out at popular times, the survey found.

Meanwhile, monthly Barclays spending data found that the Rugby World Cup helped to drive spending at pubs and bars up by 6.1% on last year, yet growth slowed on restaurants and takeaways as consumers began to save money for the festive period.

Two in five Britons (40%) expect that this coming Christmas will be more expensive than last year, with 20% buying presents already and 18% speaking to loved ones to make a mutual agreement to cut back on gift-giving.

September’s sun contributed to a 4.2% year-on-year increase in consumer card spending, significantly up on August’s 2.8%.

Spending on nonessential items was up 4% – slightly higher than August’s 2.8% – as the warmer weather encouraged Britons to visit the high street and socialise with friends and family.

Spending on essential items grew 4.6%, considerably higher than last month’s 1%, largely due to a jump in fuel spending driven by rising petrol and diesel prices as well as a 7% increase in spending on groceries.

The findings follow consumer group Which? warning that up to a third of loyalty offers at Tesco and Sainsbury’s are “not all they’re cracked up to be” as it urged the competition watchdog to investigate supermarket dual pricing.

Both Sainsbury’s and Tesco said Which? failed to take inflation into account when analysing prices and said they adhere to Trading Standards rules on promotions.

Some 40% of shoppers have noticed supermarkets cutting the price of certain items, such as fruit and vegetables, bread and tinned food.

The proportion of consumers noticing examples of “shrinkflation” rose to 76% in September from 71% the month before, with chocolate remaining the most cited product affected by the trend.

Esme Harwood, director at Barclays, said: “Grocery spending tapered off over the summer, thanks to the long-awaited drop in food price inflation. Worryingly, growth sped up again in September, which could be an early warning sign that food prices may not come down as quickly as we’d hoped.

“Eagle-eyed shoppers have spotted more examples of ‘surge pricing’ and ‘shrinkflation’ and are becoming sceptical about the value of supermarket loyalty schemes. Consumers are also starting to pull back their spending in some nonessential areas so that they can put more money aside for the festive season.”

Opinium surveyed 2,000 UK consumers between September 22-26.

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