Sainsburys shopping

Studies have shown that buy-one-get-one-free deals are the most popular types of promotions in the grocery store. They help retailers ring up more sales, manufacturers move more merchandise, and shoppers get more stuff. What’s not to like?

Plenty, according to our friends across the pond, who appear to be having a difficult time wrapping their heads around the concept. So a major British grocery chain is getting rid of BOGOs – and earning praise for it.

No more free stuff at the supermarket? Why, thank you, benevolent grocer, because “free” was just way too confusing!

Sainsbury’s has announced that it will phase out all buy-one-get-one-free, two-for-one and other “multi-buy” promotions within the next six months, in favor of lower regular prices. The retailer boasts that it’s the first in the UK “to make changes of this scale.”

“We have listened to our customers who have told us that multi-buy promotions don’t meet their shopping needs today, are often confusing and create logistical challenges at home in terms of storage and waste,” Sainsbury Marketing Director Sarah Warby said in a statement. “We are making it easier for customers to buy the products they need, in the quantities they need, without having to buy multiple items to enjoy great value,” added Food Commercial Director Paul Mills-Hicks.


There have always been retailers and shoppers who prefer everyday low prices to promotional pricing – it’s the difference between shopping at ALDI or Walmart, where everything is always cheap, and shopping at a traditional grocery store, where regular prices are generally higher but sale prices are much lower than the competition. Sure, some grocery stores offer “10 for $10”-type specials and mix-and-match deals with perplexing exclusions that may be needlessly, purposely, confusing. But there’s something elegantly simple about buy-one-get-one-free that seems to resonate with shoppers.

A 2012 study by AMG Strategic Advisors found that BOGOs were American shoppers’ favorite promotion of all, with 66% saying they preferred them, compared to just 18% who liked a flat discount off one item, and 10% who liked half-price sales. Why? “I like free stuff,” one respondent said. “Seems like I’m getting more,” said another.

In contrast, Sainsbury’s research found that British shoppers feel that BOGOs cause them to buy more and spend more than they need to, and force them “into complicated thinking in terms of value calculation.” A government-backed financial advice organization also found that “special offers in supermarkets tempt the majority of shoppers to spend 21% more than they intended to.”

And that wasn’t the first time a British government organization has spoken out against BOGOs. Two years ago, government leaders issued the most recent of several proposals to ban BOGOs altogether, in the name of preventing overeating and wastefulness. “We are urging the supermarkets to look again at offers such as ‘buy one get one free’, which can encourage excess consumption, which leads to food waste,” one of the proposal’s authors said.

Sainsbury’s move away from BOGOs may actually be a pre-emptive one, then – before it’s forced into doing it.

So the next time you take advantage of a BOGO deal, be grateful you live in the Land of the Free. Because for confused, wasteful, government-coddled British shoppers, “free” is something they may not be seeing too much of anymore.

Image source: Sainsbury’s


  1. Pingback: Buy 1, get 1 50% off Sales - and why I hate them • Bargains to Bounty

  2. I don’t know about the UK. but when there is buy one get free offer in Canada you really have to watch the price of the buy one item being more expensive than before the buy one get one free sale..

  3. We have a market here, when they do BOGO’s, I am still able to buy one for fifty percent off. That, I love. But I don’t fancy having to buy two for that same sorta deal. Anyway, good post. Happy Shopping and of course, Happy Eating 🙂

  4. I’m confused.. it seems like they’re getting rid of sales all together, since they say ” in favor of lower regular prices.”

    I personally hate BOGO sales. Acme (new to my area) seems to have them all the time and I almost never take advantage of them because who needs two loaves of bread? I would much prefer a simple 50% off sale (or better yet, a sale price that’s half the regular price), so I can buy the one item I need. Also, Acme (like A&P before it) only takes one coupon on a BOGO sale, so you end up having to buy two items but can only use one coupon, while if it were a 50% off sale you’d be able to use one for each item. Finally with a B1G1F sale, you never know what the actual price is until you get to the supermarket. Stop & Shops in my area has different shelf prices at different stores (the prices at the store in the affluent areas are higher than in the less well off neighborhoods) so you end up paying more if you go to the more expensive store (this is true for CVS as well).

    Of course, none of this is as bad as the buy one get one 50% off sales that many department stores run, which are nothing more than 25% off (IF both items are the same price) and a requirement that you buy two items to get the sale price! And I’m bet most people don’t even realize that it’s only 25% off.

  5. Sainsburys will lose business and the bogos will be back Im sure. UK shoppers love bogos (known as bogof’s) just as much as Americans do, if not more so seeing as couponing is not a ‘thing’ over there and this really is the only way to get the most bang for your buck…or pound!

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