Does It Pay to Shop Around? — Supermarket Savvy
We all want the best deals. Unfortunately, they’re never all at the same store. So many bargain hunters “cherry pick” where they shop, identifying where the best deals are and then making multiple stops to snag those deals. I do this myself, but I’ve always wondered: is it worth it?
Lo and behold, this is a question that’s actually been investigated by academics. In research published in 2004 by two business professors (one from Wharton, no less), they found that when smart shoppers knowledgeably cherry-pick bargains, they save the most money, often significant amounts. So if you can cherry-pick at several local stores, without spending a lot on gas, it seems this is a very savvy strategy.
What’s savviest of all? Stocking up. As a summary of the research noted, cherry-picking “can really pay big-time dividends if shoppers buy a lot of the item or items that their research has shown to be offered at an excellent price. Put simply: If something shoppers need or want is dirt cheap, they should buy the biggest box, bottle or carton available, buy as many as they can afford, and find a way to make room for all the stuff in their basement or garage.”
But, of course, you have to be realistic about how much cherry-picking your own life will allow. My kids’ presence during the summer months destroys my ability to cherry-pick (and trust me, I tried heroically when school first got out.) Shopping at multiple stores with my kids in tow makes me spend even more, because kids beg for extras, and I’m so distracted that I don’t coupon well. One of my stores, though, has a children’s club, where kids play (supervised) while I shop. Even though this store’s prices are usually higher than competitors’, it’s often my one-stop shop in the summer due to the childcare.
Clearly, the children’s club works to lure in shoppers like me. The Wharton researchers, who included in their publication advice to retailers, suggested precisely this: that stores offer an incentive so that cherry-pickers would stay and do all their shopping.
But come September, I’ll be picking cherries again.
Shop smart and save! Check out more tips on couponing and savvy shopping!