Thursday, 10 February 2022

Shopping in Croatia: The Unstoppable Blight of Supermarket Catalogues

February 10th, 2022 - Even though most supermarket chains in Croatia advertise their sales and offers online, the good old paper catalogue isn't going anywhere. Instead, it seems to be an increasingly profitable means of advertising, luring customers with promises of discounts as inflation soars

If you’ve stayed in Croatia long enough that you’d have to go grocery shopping regularly, you will have noticed the stacks of catalogues at the entrance to any supermarket of your choice.

Staying or living in a residential building? The catalogues again, this time delivered straight into your mailbox, or left on top of the mailbox, or scattered on the floor.

Heaps and heaps of catalogues, multiplying at such speed that we collectively caved at one point and installed shelves or boxes for promotional materials in hallways around the country. So our mailboxes could finally fit some actual mail.

This is not a recent phenomenon, nor is it exclusive to Croatia. For years now, retail chains of all sorts have been competing for customers through the means of catalogues advertising all their current sales and offers. All accompanied by various exclamations and catchphrases, varying from meaningless to deceptive or even slightly aggressive.

Mega price! (Paradoxical, given the intended meaning.) 40% off everything! (*everything listed on these two pages.) You will not miss this! And so on, delivered weekly to your mailbox. Grocery retail makes up the bulk of it, followed by cosmetics, household items, home decor and furniture.

Although most have digital counterparts these days, the good old paper catalogue still seems to be a reliable and profitable enough means of advertising for us to be inundated by dozens of them each week. And they're not leaflets; they're proper magazines at this point. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to chuck them in the paper bin and save yourself from spiralling into the advertising abyss. Once you leaf through a few and start noticing patterns, that’s it. You’re done. They got your attention, and they’re not letting go.


We all love a good deal, and it’s nice to score a discount on a few items once in a while. But as food (and all other) prices in Croatia keep hiking up relentlessly, plenty of people don’t have a choice but to shop around in desperate search of those mega prices and 30% offs.

You don’t even have to do this out of financial need, necessarily. You have to do it not to get scammed by retail chains, artificially inflating prices one week and advertising mouthwatering discounts the next.

Again, nothing new under the sun, but this tried and tested sales tactic has been getting out of hand in recent times, so much so that the fed-up, underpaid supermarket cashiers will often softly rebel and advise you against making a purchase if they know something’s going on sale tomorrow. 

We’re at a point where it’s getting ridiculous. With the constant battle of grocery retail chains fought on catalogue pages, grocery shopping in Croatia is slowly evolving from a simple chore into actual labour. You’ve got to put in the time, study your catalogues religiously and plan for the week ahead - those enticing offers only last so long!

Those patterns I mentioned earlier? Give it a few weeks and you’ll notice there’s a handful of specific products that are seemingly always on sale in one retail chain or another, the discounted price is always the same across the board, and you’re a sucker for buying the thing when it’s not on sale. To name a few without actually naming them: a certain cocoa & hazelnut spread, a certain brand of chocolate-covered wafers, several brands of toilet paper.

In a similar vein, there are categories of products that all retail chains put on sale simultaneously. One brand of milk each, or butter, or coffee, or laundry detergent. God forbid you simply walk into a store and buy laundry detergent - you’ll sweat profusely, knowing it might be selling at 40% off somewhere else, and you’re not a sucker!


I’m joking, to a certain degree. The topic has become a bit of an unhealthy fixation of mine, and I find some aspects of it fascinating. Circling back to the previous paragraph, how do retail chains coordinate their efforts and agree on what’s going on sale the following month? Is it a conference call? A strategy planned quarterly? Q2 is all about dairy, lads! I wish I knew someone working in the mid- or upper echelons of any big grocery chain that operates in Croatia. I’ve so many questions.

Not to mention the mind boggling logistics of the catalogue industry. I can’t begin to imagine the number of executives, managers, photographers, designers, copywriters, editors, operatives and distributors required to constantly churn out those bad boys and keep them in circulation. Imagine the (probably unholy) cost of it all and the amount of paper wasted, only for 100% of it to end up in the trash eventually.

In the meantime, though, you accomplish your main objective of getting customers through the door, only for them to discover their local outlet only had 3 of those discounted shoe cabinets in stock and they sold out in 5 minutes that morning. They absolutely lose it.

Or the offensive small print pointing out that the advertised discounts don’t apply in, say, Zadar and Virovitica. Outrage ensues. (I love reading comments trashing retail chains on social media. I said it was an unhealthy fixation.)

There are plenty of people who depend on this insidious mechanism of marketing and sales to help them stretch their budget. Others can afford not to care about discounts, but will keep track of them anyway so they wouldn’t get played by the retail overlords. And finally, some don’t care at all and do their shopping unburdened by advertised sales; they're probably of most sound mind, but they overpay for their groceries. Whatever the case, there’s no winning. It feels as if we’re all on a twisted merry-go-round that spins and spins and no one’s getting off. Except for 30% off. While stocks last!


Saturday, 4 July 2020

Animal Friends Croatia Against Selling Live Seafood in Supermarkets

ZAGREB, July 4, 2020 - The Animal Friends Croatia NGO appealed to retail chains on Saturday to stop selling live seafood.

"We are talking about the biggest supermarkets in Croatia which we have asked several times to stop selling live animals because, aside from the inhumane conditions in which they are kept and which only prolong the suffering of already tortured animals, we are receiving calls from outraged, frantic customers who have decided to boycott shopping in such stores," the NGO said.

It called on retail chains and supermarkets to include live seafood in their business ethics and to show, "despite legal shortcomings", that they understand and acknowledge the need to protect animals by not allowing the sale of live ones in their stores.

"In that way, they are directly helping animals and, by rejecting any possibility that animals are kept, tortured, or killed in their stores now or in future, additionally building their company reputation."

Animal Friends Croatia is conducting the "Respect Our Sea" campaign with the Eurogroup for Animals, aimed at educating the public about the problem of breeding, keeping, selling and catching fish.

Although keeping live animals for human consumption is not explicitly regulated by Croatian law, retail chains and shops may decide whether to offer them on a daily basis or join the campaign.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Supermarkets on Hvar - Full List Here