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Shrinkflation is an economic phenomenon where the size or quantity of a product is reduced by manufacturers while the price remains the same, effectively increasing the price per unit without an apparent increase in the sticker price.

And as the fight against inflation in the U.S. continues to be center stage – with consumers getting more and more agitated with higher prices – manufacturers are doing anything they can to try and keep prices steady. This includes offering less product for the same price. 

USA Today looked at this in a new report wherein they asked customers which brands they trusted the most to swindle them out of their purchasing power the least. In November 2023, the report “surveyed 1,251 American consumers ages 18 to 58, asking about their experiences buying products from more than 100 high-profile brands.”

Here are the top brands that the survey revealed as having the fairest pricing.

Top 15 of USA Today’s Top 25 List

Gina Lazaro, Sharpie’s vice president of brand management said: “At Sharpie, we take great pride in offering innovative and affordable products that provide our customers with a superior writing experience and help them channel their inner creativity. Sharpie has been producing quality, cost-effective writing instruments for nearly 60 years, and we are committed to providing these products at a reasonable price.”

Among other findings, the USA Today report revealed:

  • Top reasons Americans pay high prices despite being unhappy about it are:
    • 1. Quality of product
    • 2. Urgent situation or no patience to price shop
    • 3. No other options.
  • 43% of those polled get angry about pricing on at least a weekly basis.
  • #1 reason consumers get angry about pricing is they remember a product being a lower price.
  • 58% of consumers rarely or never think price increases are fair.
  • Americans voted for Sharpie as the fairest brand followed by Anker, Honda, Toyota, Dove and Rubbermaid.
  • When it comes to big retailers, consumers say Costco has the fairest prices.

Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting, told USA Today: “I think that quality and consistency for these companies’ products goes a long way to explaining how consumers feel about these companies.”

He continued: “Less expensive substitutes may be available, but if the performance of the product is materially worse, this will adversely affect consumer sentiment toward the company.”

Snaith continued: “Inflation will diminish the perception of a fair deal as the consumer can recall lower prices, and higher interest rates also raise payments for purchases that are financed.”

He said: “In Florida, housing purchases have become increasingly unaffordable as rising prices the past two years are now accompanied by higher mortgage rates. Even so, transplants from other higher cost states may still view Florida’s housing market as a bargain even as longer-term residents feel the opposite.”

Broadly speaking, consumer perceptions of value vary by product category and shopping venue.

Electronics and home appliances were deemed most fairly priced by approximately 72% of respondents, slightly higher than apparel (68%) and automotive (67%).

Costco emerged as the top retailer for fair pricing, with 93% of shoppers acknowledging its value for bulk and private-label goods. Online giants Amazon and Walmart, both with an 88% approval for fair pricing, outperform most physical stores, partly due to their competitive pricing strategies, such as Walmart’s Walmart+ program. The COVID-19 pandemic further shifted consumer expectations towards speedy delivery and low-cost goods, underscoring changes in shopping habits according to a 2021 MediaRadar survey.

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