15 Nov 2022

Crowds at Manukau Pak'nSave for sales as cost of living bites

From Checkpoint, 5:13 pm on 15 November 2022

A Pak'nSave supermarket in South Auckland will have shoppers queuing for heavily reduced prices all week.

The Manukau store is celebrating its 29th anniversary with deals on vegetables, meat, and other grocery items.

But as food prices accelerate, a community leader says supermarkets could be doing more to keep prices consistently low.

With broccoli heads at 75c, fresh prawns $11.99/kg, and chicken drumsticks $1.93/kg, customers were emptying the shelves as quickly as staff members could fill them up.

Checkpoint went inside to see what $20 could buy.

Here was the shopping list:

  • Two 2.5L bottles of Coke Zero Sugar: $5
  • Two avocados: $1.38
  • Three punnets of strawberries: $5
  • Red capsicum: 93c
  • Telegraph cucumber: 93c
  • Sunrise table spread 500g: $2.09
  • Chicken thighs, bone in, 608g: $4.25
  • Total: $19.58

Other shoppers shared their thoughts on the savings.

"The drumsticks were only $3.20 for like 13 drumsticks - score," one shopper said.

"Veges - since Covid, the prices have gone way up," another said.

"I got some veges for 75c, 95c, broccoli, kumara..."

Shoppers formed queues for some of the cheapest items in store: capsicums for 93 cents, avocados for 69 cents, or three punnets of strawberries for five dollars.

Pak'nSave had imposed quantity limits on some products, and many customers filled their trolleys right up to this threshold.

"There's a line for the chicken," one shopper said.

"It's quite busy - there are lots of people inside."

Another shopper described the scene around the shrimp bin:

"All you could see in the ice tray was just the eyeballs and the whiskers of the shrimp.

"There were no shrimp where you pick them out from; they were gone."

With the cost of living on the rise, shoppers said that every dollar counted, with some travelling long distances for the cheaper goods.

One shopper drove 30km north from Pukekohe, while others came south from Botany Downs.

Another shopper said she had just returned from Australia after living there for 18 years.

"The prices have just been shocking. I don't even know how people can survive in New Zealand."

Manukau ward councillor Lotu Fuli said while it was encouraging to see food prices dropping temporarily in the sales, people were struggling all year round. 

"We've got the highest price rises in 14 years, but also the highest profits in our supermarkets - crazy profits, making over a million dollars a day in excess profits.

"Those two things don't seem to match up with the fact that people are struggling and although wages have increased somewhat, they haven't increased to the same rate."

Earlier this year, the Commerce Commission found that New Zealand's major grocery retailers were earning excess profits of about $1 million a day.

The government responded to the market study by threatening supermarkets with regulation if they failed to grant competitors access to their wholesale supply chains.

Fuli said South Auckland families that had struggled in the past were now struggling even more, while more middle-income earners were struggling too.

"You're hearing a stronger voice from across our community, even from those who in the past might have been a bit more comfortable."

Fuli said many people in South Auckland had to choose between spending their money on food, petrol, electricity, or rent.

She said to help drive food costs down, Kiwis needed more competition between supermarkets, and an end to the duopoly of Foodstuffs and Countdown.

She said although Costco had now opened in West Auckland, and the Warehouse was planning to expand its grocery range, breaking down the duopoly would take time.

For now, she had a message for the two main players:

"Have a heart for our people.

"Think about your customers, which are our people, and do a little bit more in that social responsibility space in providing more regular discounts - and bring your prices down generally across the board so that you might get $800,000 in profit a day rather than a million dollars a day."

A Foodstuffs spokesperson said the deals on produce, meat, and seafood were exclusive to Pak'nSave Manukau.

"All Pak'nSave stores are proudly locally owned and operated, and each store has the ability to set extra promotions tailored to the needs of their locality."