Check out the online options

Bosses of a new supermarket price-comparison website hope supermarket sweep will soon become supermarket click, as more of us shop online.

A new online supermarket price-checker aimed at helping people get the best deals was launched yesterday. JULES STEVENS swapped a trolley for a mouse, and found out that Norfolk could be left behind by the online shopping revolution - leaving people with no real shopping choice at all.

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Bosses of a new supermarket price-comparison website hope supermarket sweep will soon become supermarket click, as more of us shop online.

And with many rural stores under threat, as plans announced by the government to close post offices could make them unsustainable, we are being told to “move with the times” and embrace online shopping as the future.

But while the website www.mysupermarket.co.uk shows the difference in cost between four leading supermarkets, the majority of people in rural Norfolk only have access to one - the ubiquitous Tesco.

Only a handful of areas, including Norwich, with both Sainsbury and Asda providing an online delivery service, and Yarmouth, which also has a Sainsbury's outlet, has a choice of other suppliers.

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It is being seen as another blow for rural communities, as lack of facilities make them increasingly isolated and difficult places for the elderly and people without transport to live.

Geoffrey Leigh, development manager for the Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC), warned that if even more was spent at supermarkets, it could destroy local communities, as money drained away from them.

And he said: “A significant proportion of the population does not have a computer at home and for them there would be no choice.”

Even if Norfolk had the full complement of supermarket delivery services to choose from, he said, a survey done for the NRCC showed that, contrary to popular belief, village stores were cheaper.

He added: “If Tesco is the only one that is available to online shoppers, then it is merely continuing its monopoly in the food market in Norfolk, which is not good for the consumer.”

A spokesperson for Tesco said last night that people were interested in convenience and service, saying: “There are plenty of examples of shops of all types and sizes doing well by responding to customers changing needs.”

And he said: “It is the same for all retailers.”

The website showed that there were a range of prices between Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Ocado. Asda emerged as the cheapest option by £1.70 when ten common provisions were put in the online shopping basket.

It charged £21.54 for the products, which included Birdseye fishfingers, Hellman's mayonnaise, a golden delicious apple, a loaf of Hovis bread, and Kellogg's Cornflakes.

Ocado was the most expensive at £23.24, with Tesco costing £22.25, and Sainsbury coming in at just a penny more. The website usefully showed which products were on special offer at which supermarket, but it could only compare brands that all the supermarkets sold.

Own-range brands, which make up most of the weekly shop, including milk and meat, could not be matched up.