Supermarket war fought over the petrol pumps

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Supermarket price wars are hotting up during the May holiday weekend, with the price battles being fought on the petrol and diesel forecourts. With confusing offers and counter-offers making grocery shopping a headache for many consumers, simple price slashes on fuel may be a more effective way of luring customers.

Morrisons laid down the gauntlet by knocking 2p a litre off the price of unleaded and 1p a litre off diesel. Tesco saw that move and improved it by knocking 2p off both. Sainsburys matched Tesco's deal, while Asda set a maximum price per litre of 129.7p for petrol and 134.7p for diesel.

It's a belated response to oil prices, which have fallen 15 percent since February, carefully timed to coincide with a period when many drivers are heading out on bank holiday weekend trips. Mark Todd of Morrisons, speaking to the Mail, made out that the fuel price cut was a generous goodwill gesture from the supermarket. "We're expecting to see high numbers of motorists filling their tanks for family days out," he said. "That's why we're passing on these savings for the pre-bank holiday shop."

The savings will be pretty negligible comparted to the rapidly escalating prices of supermarket groceries, but inflation has made the supermarkets increasingly desperate to maintain their market share. In the food shopping arena, discount stores like Aldi and Lidl are attracting shoppers away from the big four, but these no-frills stores do not have petrol pumps, so the major supermarkets see fuel discounts as a way of bringing customers back into the fold.

Whether it works remains to be seen. Discerning consumers might well realise that it makes sense to fill the tank at Tesco or Morrisons and use the fuel to drive half a mile down the road to the nearest Aldi to fill the boot.

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