British supermarkets are on the verge of a digital pricing revolution which will see paper price labels replaced with electronic tags on shelves, the former Trade Minister and boss of Waitrose has suggested.
For years supermarkets have been resisting so-called "e-prices" due to high installation costs, but speaking at an industry conference in London today Lord Mark Price said this was changing.
Unlike paper price tags, so called "e-prices" are linked to shops' computer systems which can move them up or down by up to 90pc in a day.
The technology lets shops react to events during which they can remove offers on sought-after items, for example ice creams and chilled drinks during heatwaves and sandwiches at lunchtime.
It is already commonplace in Europe and the US but is likely to cause controversy if introduced in the UK, where shoppers are increasingly cost-conscious.
Speaking about how retailers needed to adopt technological changes after Brexit at the Wine and Spirits Trade Association's annual conference, Lord Mark Price said: "We [Waitrose] looked at digital labeling on products every year for nine years, but we never did it because it was cheaper to put tickets on shelves by hand.
"That will change. There will become an economic case. Everybody will be forced to think about how to take labour out and how to put technology in to reduce the cost."
In June this newspaper revealed that e-labels are already being trialed by Tesco with experts predicting they could be commonplace in the UK within five years.
Lord Price stepped down from his role of Trade Minister earlier this month and was until 2016 managing director of Waitrose.
When asked whether supermarkets would raise overall prices in response to cost pressures faced by producers, Lord Price suggested mid to low end own-brand products were likely to stay the same price but that quality of ingredients was likely to suffer.
He said: "Supermarkets are being pretty clever as they have three ranges: basic, mid range and finest and they'll make very clear decisions on each of those ranges about quality and price.
"If they are working to a price point because people won't spend more than £5 for bottle of wine, for example, then they'll reduce quality. But if they're selling top end wine, they'll raise prices."