Consumers of fast-moving consumer goods have been lamenting how most brands are shortchanging them under the deceptive guise of maintaining the price of their products. To achieve this, the brands, the consumers allege are deploying a strategy of reducing the size, quantity and quality of their products. Often called shrinkflation, it is a marketing strategy whereby brands pass on costs of production to the customers in a way that is difficult to notice.
With the economic reality coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic dawning on the brands, reducing the size and contents of most products has become the last resort to maintain profitability and customer loyalty. Meanwhile, investigations by The Industry newspaper reveal that most customers and traders alike are aware of this and are really dissatisfied with the strategy adopted by the companies and manufacturers of these products. They argued that it amounts to insincerity if a company which says it would prefer that its profit margin is reduced rather than increase the price of its product now goes back to subtly rip off the consumer by reducing the size of the product in turn.
At the popular Alade market in Ikeja, a trader, Mrs Fatimo Alabi said the issue has become topical within the market, as customers daily complain of getting less value at the same price for most products they buy. According to Mrs. Alabi, “We hear this thing everyday where customers come back to complain of reduction in the quantity and quality of some of the products that we sell to them. Sincerely speaking, most traders are not finding it easy as we feel we stand the risk of losing these customers, who may one day decide to switch loyalty to other products of superior quality and quantity but of the same price”.
The customers are indeed worried that companies and brand owners are by this action trying to gain on the swing what they felt they had lost at the roundabout. In other words, these companies have gained through size reduction what they could have lost in price maintenance. “From the customers’ perspective, such action is deceptive and criminal, but I am told that in the business world it is legal and inevitable, especially, at such period when a company’s production costs seem to be high as a result of economic downturn”, she said”
Also, at the Ayobo market in Ipaja/Ayobo Local Council Development Area, a consumer, Ayodele Adedokun, complained bitterly about the reduction in the size and quantity of most household products that the manufacturers had promised to retain the initial price. He said, “Most of the products we buy these days have been marginally reduced in size, quantity and even quality, even though, the prices remain the same.” While I do not want to mention names for the purpose of protecting the brands, there is a particular bar soap that I kept buying, because the price has not changed. At first, I didn’t notice the size has been reduced as it didn’t occur to me that the manufacturer may be playing a fast one on the consumers. After about three purchases of this same product, I just noticed there was a slight difference in the size of the soap, even though the net weight on the wrapper hasn’t changed.
With this discovery, it didn’t take me time to realize that other household items have also been stealthily reduced. There are even some that have reduced the quality of the product but any unsuspecting consumer may hardly know. If you ask me, I feel what these manufacturers are doing is not fair enough, as they made us feel they were doing us a lot of good by not increasing the prices of their products, without knowing that they had a covert plan to impose size reduction”.
He noted that such action can only happen in Nigeria, where there is weak protection for customers against the whims and caprices of the manufacturers. “There is no protection for the consumers in this country and this explains why this kind of thing can happen here without anybody querying the intention. The regulator I must say need to wake up and rein in on these manufacturers”, he said. When contacted on the issue, the Head of Internal Audit, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC), Joseph Abu, didn’t pick his call and efforts to get him to respond through messaging also proved abortive.