Store Survey


Story Details

They're Adelaide's big three discount department stores: Target, Kmart and BigW.
Much the same? Well maybe not.

So which gives you the best value and how do you know a bargain when you see one?

We put the big three to the test, buying a selection of eight common items, including some Christmas present favourites, from Kmart, Target and Big W stores across Adelaide:

  1. Men's Dunlop Volley Shoes
  2. Ladies Bonds bikini briefs
  3. Men's polo shirts (house brand)
  4. Girls' 16 inch bike
  5. iPod Touch 8gb
  6. Canon Ixus 801S digital camera
  7. Revlon Lash Fantasy mascara
  8. Kolotex Sheer Relief pantyhose

And we recruited our very own Shopping Squad again, armed them with our list and sent them off to do the research.

"It's quite easy," says Shopping Squad member Lloyd of his shopping strategy.
"Normally you say that's 50% off, that's a good one. 60% off, yeah, that's good, I'll take that."

For the Douglas family, discount stores are nothing new. When you have twelve�yes, twelve�
children, it pays to hunt down the best deal.

"I mean it does wear and tear on your legs," says mum Christine. "You have to go to all the stores to check them out first but you can save a bit."

Daughter Michelle says: "We're in Big W, we'll just go see how much it is in Target, then we'll go to Target, oh we'll see how much it is in Kmart and we'll go around."

Dad Jim agrees: "It's a bit of leg work, but it's worth saving the money."

And what better for a bit of leg work than some new shoes? And here, as our Shopping Squad discovered, the saving showed up immediately.

The same men's Dunlop Volley sports shoes were on special for $20 at BigW at Cumberland Park, $29.99 at Kmart at Colonnades and a whopping $39.99 at the nearby Target. That's a 100% difference.

"Price wise, Big W is the best, which I was a little bit surprised at that," says Shopping Squad member Kay.

Now for something a bit more high-tech: BigW was also the cheapest for the latest iPod Touch, with a price tag of $318. And that was the same in every store we went to. The same iPod cost $329 at both Target and Kmart.

And even prices on the basics like Kolotex Sheer Relief panty hose can vary widely. They were $7.99 at Kmart West Lakes, $6.99 at Target Fulham Gardens and $5.42 at BigW Marion. That's a 30% saving.

Dr Kate Mizerski is a senior marketing lecturer at Edith Cowan University, and says Kmart and BigW are going after the same market, while Target aims for the higher-end discounts.

"People in the current economic climate are going to be looking more towards the discount operators, I mean given that the merchandise in appearance anyway is very similar you know nobody sees your tags, nobody says where did you buy that?" she says.

"So it's value for money, it's not necessarily price it's what you perceive you're getting in terms of value."

Choice Magazine's Christopher Zinn says with home finances taking a battering, the high end department stores are suffering.

"People are reigning in their spending and where they are spending, perhaps they will do so more in a value-conscious sense, as opposed to the classier stores, if you like," he says.

"You can save, you know ,$10, $15 dollars. To a few people that's not important, but for most of us, that's worth the added bit of shoe leather of just checking it out."

"Kmart were the dearest even over Target, which surprised me," says Shopping Squad member Kylie. "But Kmart do price-match."

All up, where we could buy the items or their equivalents in each of the stores, the survey revealed our basket cost the most at Kmart, at $911.91. The cheapest was at Target Fulham Gardens with $715.91. That's a 20% difference.

Yet it was BigW that came out the overall winner.

"But on the same hand Big W is the cheapest and they will also price-match anywhere, so Big W wins hands down," says Kylie.

That was the verdict in most areas, with Big W the cheapest in the Central, South and North East, while Target took out the honours in the East and West.

So while it was pretty clear-cut on prices, one thing remained a bug-bear for all of our squad in just about every store: customer service.

"I think my biggest surprise, actually, was trying to find staff in these stores to price-check or find products," says Kay.

So it seems the thrill of the chase in the hunt for a bargain might not be everyone's idea of a good time, but Christopher Zinn says:

"If you can do it and enjoy it and save money at the same time it'll make what is a chore much more pleasurable."