Discount stores aren’t always cheaper, new study shows

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Discount stores aren’t always cheaper, new study shows

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While most consumers feel confident that they’re getting the best deals on daily necessities at major discount chains like E-Mart and Lotte Mart, a recent study showed this isn’t always the case.

In fact, certain products were as much as 19.4 percent cheaper at places like department stores or traditional markets, according to the study released by the Korea Consumer Agency on Monday.

Baby formula, canned tuna and coffee sticks were cheaper at big discount chains, but other products like shampoos and conditioners were substantially cheaper at traditional open-air markets.

The study looked at six product categories, which included items like baby diapers, powdered formula and sanitary pads.

Big supermarkets beat out department stores and traditional markets in three out of the six categories.

For example, the average price of Maxwell House Original instant coffee at chains like E-Mart was 12,791 won ($11.14), compared to 16,485 won from traditional markets.

The agency explained that the chosen items are among the top sellers in each category.

The price difference in cans of tuna was slighter than in the coffee sticks, with big supermarkets posting 2,339 won while traditional markets charged 2,450 won.

But discount chains didn’t always provide best deals.

The consumer agency found that traditional markets thumped bigger retailers in the shampoo category, offering the products at half the prices of supermarket chains and department stores.

Traditional markets were selling Mise en Scene Pearl Shining Moisture Shampoo at 4,792 won on average, which is 167.4 percent cheaper than discount chains’ 11,613 won. The average price at department stores stood at 12,813 won.

But in the case of sanitary pads, department stores offered the best deal at 8,572 won, followed by big discount chains and traditional markets.

The agency suggested that consumers refer to the government-sponsored price comparison website (www.price.go.kr) before making purchases.

The agency also noted that many products saw their prices fluctuate sharply in March. Items that got more expensive included soybean paste and onions, while soap and powdered formula got cheaper.


BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]

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