Top Tips for Shopping in New Zealand

1. How to spend less and get more

The major supermarkets are a rip-off. The reason is simple: it's a monopoly. Or rather, a cosy duopoly, where Foodstuffs and Progressive own nearly every supermarket in the country.

Foodstuffs is New Zealand's second-biggest business behind Fonterra (another monopoly that controls the huge NZ milk industry).

It sounds the wrong way around, but you can get food that's much cheaper and much better quality at markets and smaller retailers.

Try farm shops, farmers markets, delis and asian supermarkets, where you can get everything in one go. Yes, even specialist delis are cheaper than supermarkets.

The biggest price difference I've seen is for real Parmesan cheese. Supermarkets charge twice as much as delis for the same product. (eg. $90/kg vs $45/kg)

2. If it's got to be a supermarket, which one?

Although they are part of the duopoly, Pak n Save has the lowest supermarket prices (Source: Consumer Magazine).

The brand name Pak n Save is a play on words because their policy is to not bag your food.

They price-scan your food and put it into a second trolley, which you then wheel to another area, where you unload it all and pack it into shopping bags.

So the poor sods who buy a trolley full of food use 3 different trolleys: one to take to the checkout, one to take from the checkout to the packing area, and another one to put the packed bags into. Bizarre.

3. How to get milk on your doorstep for less than it costs at supermarkets

Milk (and dairy) in supermarkets is expensive. This is due to a milk supply monopoly (Fonterra) and a supermarket duopoly (Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises).

But supermarket prices are so high you can get good quality milk delivered to your door for less. Just look out for milk delivery vans in your area. I get organic Klondyke milk delivered to my home and I swear it's tastier and it's cheaper than the milk at the supermarket. The independent milk processors include Klondyke, Fresha Valley, Green Valley and Al & Son.

4. Shopping Online: A Quick Guide

Online shopping hasn't taken off in New Zealand like it has in other countries (read more). In fact, I can't name a single, big online-only New Zealand retailer.

Most of the big international websites don't operate here either:

There's no Amazon. There's no EBay (although there is something similar, called TradeMe). And you couldn't use iTunes in New Zealand until 2011.

The best place to go for New Zealand online shopping is TradeMe. Although it looks like an EBay clone, almost half TradeMe sales are for new goods. So it's the place to go for used and new goods.

5. DIY Stores: Where to go and one to avoid

New Zealand is a country of Do-It-Yourselfers! I guess it's the settler spirit in the blood.

I highly recommend the Bunnings stores. In my experience they've been super-helpful and super professional. They've even given me a refund for things I broke because I'm stupid.


At the other end of the spectrum is PlaceMakers. Who were unhelpful and unprofessional.

My story is ... I bought an oil heater from them that should have been a product recall. When I was out of the house, it heated up and sprayed hot oil everywhere. I came home to a house full of oily smoke and a heater that was about to burst into flames.

The response I got from the lady at the customer care desk at PlaceMakers was like something from a Monty Python sketch. I explained it could have been the identical heater that I'd been using in my 1 year-old daughter's room, and it should be investigated. She said basically, "Yeah, but it didn't burn your daughter. It's out of warranty. You can buy another one over there. I don't want the broken one - bin it." I haven't been to PlaceMakers since.

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