Grocery shopping – Morrisons vs. Mercadona
Thanks to the location I am in, I have more options in shopping in two countries: Gibraltar & Spain. It’s great in general, but not always straightforward for grocery shopping. A wise man once said ‘Ignorance is bliss’, right? 🙂
There is only one ‘proper’ supermarket in Gibraltar, which is Morrisons. It has a good selection of products. It’s not huge but well organised and well catered for different types of domestic necessities. Products are generally reliable and their cafeteria is very handy. Oh let’s not forget the nice bakery section.
However, I don’t buy everything from Morrisons. It’s convenient to head there rather than go to Spain to bring stuff back, but there are a couple of things I would like to pinpoint, and I ‘wishfully’ think Morrisons management take notice of them.
First of all, it’s pricing. I mean the opportunity is there. It’s a downright monopoly, isn’t it? No ASDA, no Sainsbury’s, and no Tesco. Morrisions doesn’t have a competitor in Gibraltar.
As a big supermarket chain, they will probably have to make the prices of most products in line with the mainland stores, however, who regulates it and how do we know that we’re paying the same for a carton of milk as the consumers in Norwich? Actually we know that we’re not paying the same. I read an article about the discrepancies in price amongst Morrisions stores from a local newspaper and Gibraltar was wholeheartedly contributing to their profit generation.
Some of the products can be easily compared to the counterparts in Spain. One might say it’s all about quality but how come a bunch of grapes could exhibit more than £3 difference per kilo? Then there are products which are cheaper in Gibraltar. So is it an arbitrage equilibrium then? I don’t think so. The pricing tends to be biased towards basic essential products, and for the rest we are too busy to check all the prices over two different markets in two different jurisdictions and currency zones.
Gibraltar is a multicultural society. Morrisons reflects that. I have few problems sourcing exotic ingredients from there, which gives a big advantage against Spanish ones. Actually it’s not 100% true any more. Nowadays there are so many expats living on the coast, many Spanish supermarkets have adapted to their consumers’ needs. I’d say Hipercor (El Corte Ingles supermarket) and Carrefour are the leaders.
Secondly (but lastly, yes I’m complaining about only two!), it’s the market control. There must be a better term for this and I should know for an (ancient) marketing major, but anyway their timing of some production is questionable. One corner I like a lot at Morrisions is a roast chicken counter. They roast whole chickens, chicken parts and some pork parts. They smell nice and are so fresh. The oven is always roasting something, you know it’s in rolling motion. That’s why it quizzes me even more.
Why do they not have my favorite chicken thighs at lunch time? Or rather, why do they not have anything left when I turn up at lunch time?
They are usually all sold out or some dry unappetising pieces left. There is absolute abundance of whole roast chickens at any time but I cannot buy and eat it for my lunch. I want a meal deal composed of a few chicken thighs or drumsticks with a containerful of chips. I’m not the only one. I saw many disappointed faces turning away due to lack of chicken parts for lunch. There is a clearly lucrative (=desperate!) market there and Morrisons don’t seem to care to exploit it. Their attitude is like, ‘We make chicken roasts whenever we feel like it.’ No market research or strategy involved in this area, I have to say.
Well I see the same at bakery section. My favourite rolls are always unavailable and they tend to make an offer of £1.29 for 5 (undesired and boring) rolls. Duh! I’m sure that I’m not the only one that is fond of that particular bread roll. I want my roll, not just any roll!
I would say that I do 85% of the major grocery shopping in Spain and 15% in Morrisons. What I usually buy at Morrisons are stuff which are not available or more expensive in Spain (snacks of British origin, i.e. walkers, tofu, bean sprouts, most of Asian ingredients, kitchen stuff etc.) or it has better selection (apples and some vegetables) or transportability (fresh meat, frozen stuff, bottled drinks, etc). Of course these are not set-in-stone rules as shopping is not always a rational activity.
In Spain, my favourite supermarket by a large margin is Mercadona, followed by Hipercor and Carrefour. I like the localness and humbleness of Mercadona. They have a huge range of ‘Hacendado (own brand)’ products and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with their quality. It feels like a less posh version of Marks & Spencer’s.
To tell the truth, I wanted to write about this snack called ‘Rosegones‘, then the post got out of control again, intertwining with my deep-rooted rants against Morrisons!
OK, here is my (sort of) deduction.
I’ve recently discovered this delightful ‘Rosegones’, of course it’s hacendado. This tastes similar to biscotti but it is more rustic and has generous almond quantity. Also it feels unpretentious enough not to be accompanied with an illy espresso. If you can, get one from any Mercadona. It’s located in the breakfast/cereal section. If you can’t, make your own using this Spanish recipe webpage. It doesn’t look too complicated to make. It’s apparently a typical Valencian dessert eaten around Christmas. Yum Yum Yum!