On demand surge-pricing is making its way to New Zealand.

The country could soon be in the same boat as the UK, Europe and America, with stores and supermarkets adopting digital e-pricing - prices that change hour to hour, based on demand.

Retail First managing director Chris Wilkinson said variants of surge-pricing had already hit New Zealand, particularly around the Lions tour, with accommodation and campsites prices soaring.

While on demand surge-pricing is not a new phenomenon, Wilkinson said the way it was being administered, overseas, was.


"What is new is the ability to manage on-shelf pricing dynamically and tie this to key commercial opportunities - such as busy times, events, weather or other responsive opportunities," he said.

Asked if he thought it would become standard practice in New Zealand supermarkets and on shelves anytime soon, Wilkinson said it would likely hit service stations first.

"We'll likely see this in service stations first, as they will be able to maximise potential around higher margin products such as hot drinks, bakery and other convenience items," he said.

"The supermarket scene in the UK is significantly more competitive than it is in New Zealand. With price now the only differentiator, more players in the market and with many products at an all-time low, margin is wafer thin.

"At that level, retailers are looking at any way possible to claw back performance."

New Zealand was not at that level, Wilkinson said.

"Where it may have the opportunity, is the growing number of metro supermarkets - in inner city areas, where high occupancy costs place added pressure on margin. Surge pricing could help these sites improve margin during events or during other key-time opportunities.

"The analysis we've done suggests New Zealand is a retail environment, where consumers typically have a higher awareness of price than other countries, so variations on their everyday essentials may take some time to be accepted."


A Countdown spokesman said: "Countdown has no plans to bring electronic pricing to New Zealand."

Foodstuffs head of external relations Antoinette Laird said the company was happy with its current practice of setting consistent shelf prices, "which gives our customers surety around what they can expect to pay at our supermarkets".

"The New Zealand supermarket environment is extremely competitive, we don't believe this practice would be acceptable to our customers or work for our brands."

Changes are afoot in the UK to scrap fixed prices, giving supermarkets more power to hike up the cost of products from hour to hour based on demand.

Tesco and Sainsbury's will implement electronic "Uber-style" pricing within the next five years, according to reports, giving them the power to jack up prices by as much as 90 per cent during the lunch rush, the traditional Sunday evening grocery shopping peak and on public holidays.

Digital e-pricing is already common across Europe and America, and retail company Coop Norden in Denmark has found it has saved costs and increased efficiency.

The Uber-style surge in pricing will likely be implemented in Australia.

University of Melbourne consumer psychologist Brent Coker predicts Australian supermarkets would implement the electronic pricing about 12 months after the UK, describing it as the way of the future for grocery retailers.

Paper tickets on shelves would be replaced with digital LCD screens that could be changed remotely, and shoppers would be forced to change their habits in order to reap the benefits.

"Now, people are used to going to do the supermarket shop at 5pm on a Sunday and that's their routine. With e-pricing, there might be a spread of customer purchasing behaviour as they come to realise shopping during the Sunday night peak hour might not be cost effective," Coker told news.com.au.

"They might have to start shopping on a Monday afternoon."

- additional reporting from news.com.au