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Supermarkets accused of excluding elderly from discounts

Elderly Shoppers
Elderly Shoppers

Supermarkets have been accused of locking out elderly customers out of discounts and lower prices as food prices spiral.

Sainsbury’s announced a mass of price cuts for Nectar card owners this month – but it is difficult to join Nectar without an email address. Asda requires shoppers to download a smartphone app to access its loyalty offers and does not offer a physical card.

Other supermarkets such as Tesco and Morrisons do offer some alternatives to signing up for their schemes digitally, but campaign groups say it is still difficult for the elderly to make use of the best offers.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “In an increasingly online world, those who do not use digital technology can feel they are being left behind.

“At Age UK we regularly hear from older people who are told that they should be doing things online and who find that because they do not use the internet, they often miss out on the best prices, loyalty discounts and rewards.”

Loyalty schemes and discounts have become a supermarket staple as big supermarkets compete for shoppers amid soaring inflation. The difference in price and the level of discounts available for those with a loyalty card can be stark.

According to data compiled by retail data company Assosia, a basket of 14 everyday items in Tesco such as bread, eggs, chicken fillets and milk would come in at £37.34 with a Clubcard compared to £43.82 without – a 17pc (£6.48 difference).

In Sainsbury’s, which this month announced it would offer significantly lower prices on 300 items to shoppers signed up for a Nectar card, an equivalent basket came in at £37.19 with the discount compared to £46.84 without – a discount of 25%, or £9.65.

It comes as the price of a weekly shop has soared over the last year as food manufacturers passed on the rising cost of ingredients, energy and wages to retailers, who in turn have raised prices. Grocery price inflation stood at 17.3pc in March, according to experts at Kantar.

“[We] are very concerned that the supermarkets are basically freezing over people from some of the offers that they make,” said Dennis Reed, director of campaign group Silver Voices.

“A lot of people don't have smartphones and if they do only use them for telephone calls, they don’t use them to download apps,” he added.

“They are, by default, forcing everybody to use the internet and smartphone apps, and they don’t advertise these other alternatives.”

Tesco allows shoppers without an email address to sign up for a Clubcard in store with just a phone number.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “All Nectar accounts registered digitally do require an email address for security, but this is not required if registered over the phone, to allow as many customers as possible to access the benefits of being a Nectar member.”

An Asda spokesman said there were no plans for Asda to introduce a physical card for its Asda Rewards programme.

“Our colleagues are more than happy to help customers who are using the app for the first time to get the hang of it and start earning Rewards every time they shop with Asda,” he said.

A Marks & Spencer spokesman said customers would be able to have staff check and activate offers for them in-store. She added the retailer was planning to trial allowing customers to sign up with a phone number instead of an email address in May.

A Morrisons spokesman, meanwhile, said it has ambassadors in stores to help shoppers sign up to its My Morrisons scheme, which can be done with just a home address.

“We are listening to our customers and looking into alternatives for both digital and non-digital customers,” the spokesman said.

Ms Abrahams added: “Retailers need to remember that not everybody is online. The proportion of people in older age groups using the internet has increased over recent years but more than one in five people aged 65+ still do not use the internet,”

“Lower levels of internet use are also linked to financial disadvantage and disability (at all ages) so some who are in most need of extra help are missing out.

“It’s time to stop penalising people who are not online or who don’t have the right technology and ensure that good deals remain accessible even if you aren't a computer or smartphone user.”