The floors are concrete and the advertisements are simple stickmen, but the basic tactics are still working.
Not only has Pak'n Save been named New Zealand's cheapest supermarket for the 12th year in a row, but it has beaten its competitors by up to 11 per cent.
The annual Consumer NZ survey compared the prices of 40 identical items at supermarkets in seven centres.
Steve Anderson, managing director of Foodstuffs New Zealand - which owns Pak'n Save and New World - said the gap between its no-frills supermarkets and the competition appeared to be increasing, with results up on the 6 to 10 per cent savings found in last year's survey.
"We're conscious that many Kiwis are struggling in the current economic conditions, and Pak'n Save offers significant savings for them," Mr Anderson said.
But although it was the cheapest, the survey found some downsides. Pak'n Save does not carry the wide range of brands and pack sizes found on the shelves of New World and Countdown.
Competition for second and third place was separated by about $5 between Countdown and New World - though New World beat its rival in five of the centres. Prices varied by up to $23 between the cheapest and most expensive shopping baskets.
The most expensive regions were Napier/Hastings and Wellington, but the survey found the most expensive way to buy groceries was at www.countdown.co.nz.
Countdown's online store prices were compared to Wellington's walk-in stores and added up to just over $140, but delivery bumped up the cost by $13.25.
Consumer NZ's mystery shoppers hit the supermarkets last month and bought a list of 40 top-selling products, including food and drink, personal care and cleaning products. The survey did not include fresh meat, fish, produce, wine or beer.