Flava, the UK's first 'buy now, pay later' (BNPL) supermarket, allows you to pay for a grocery shop worth £40 to £100 in instalments. But Which? analysis found the online retailer selling some items for much more than other supermarkets.
The coronavirus outbreak has led to redundancies, reduced working hours and rising debt for many households across the UK. So if you're struggling to make ends meet, you may be looking for alternative ways to pay for food and toiletries.
While spreading the cost of your groceries might seem like a lifeline, it's important to be clear on the repayment process, what the risks are and what other options are available.
Here, Which? takes a look at how Flava works and alternative ways to access groceries if money is tight.
Flava doesn't run any traditional credit checks. All you need is a valid debit or credit card.
It's important to consider whether you can afford the repayments you're taking on, to avoid acquiring more debt than you can realistically pay back.
New customers will receive a basket credit of £40 per order.
Flava says as it gets to know you as a customer, and knows you're reliable with repayments, your credit will increase 'significantly'.
Orders are capped at £100 for all customers.
You can pay for your goods upfront or split your payments over a maximum of four instalments.
The initial first payment is selectable by you when you place the order, after which the remaining amounts are automatically taken on a weekly basis from the debit or credit card you enter at the checkout.
New customers are asked to pay 50% of the total bill on the first instalment and revisiting customers pay 25% of the bill on their first payment.
Flava says it doesn't charge any fees and your purchase is interest-free.
It advises customers who are unable to make repayments to get in touch and reschedule the amount due to a date that works better.
If you fail to repay your balance, you won't be able to order from the site again.
Flava told Which? that under no circumstances does it pass a customer's account on to an external debt collection agency.
It told us customers' credit scores won't be negatively impacted if customers fail to pay.
Flava sells a mix of well-known branded products, such as Heinz and Kellogg's, and cheaper products too.
That said, not all items have a cheaper option, so you may end up having to buy the more expensive brands.
If you shop with one of the bigger supermarkets, you'll benefit from a variety of products and prices, which could result in a cheaper basket overall.
There's also a Flava Benefits scheme, which gets you free delivery and a discount on products, with some items reduced by as much as 72%.
You can sign up to a free 14-day trial for Flava Benefits. You're then charged a one-off fee of £14.99 at the end of the trial, after which you're charged £4.99 each month.
We compared the prices of Flava's branded products with other supermarkets and found that some were much higher in price, while others were priced comparably. We've put the cheapest price for each item in bold.
|Fairy Liquid lemon (433ml)||£1.29||£1||£1||£1.30||£1|
|Cow & Gate bolognese||75p||60p||65p||65p||65p|
|Johnson's Baby Honey Soap (4 x 100g)||£3.16||£1.25||£1.25||£1.30||£1.25|
|Pringles original flavour 200g||£2.49||£2.50||£2.50||£2.50 (on offer for £1.25)||£1.25|
|Yorkshire Tea (80 bags)||£2.99||£3 (on offer for £2)||-||£3||£2|
Prices correct as of 22 October 2020.
In our analysis, we found all five items from our Flava basket could be found cheaper with another supermarket.
Flava's Johnson's Baby Honey Soap, for example, was 153% more expensive than the cheapest supermarket price of £1.25.
This means that although you can spread the cost of your Flava shop, you could end up paying more in the long run for the items you need than if you shopped at Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's or Tesco.
No other supermarket is yet to offer a BNPL scheme at the checkout, though, which means you'll need to pay upfront with a debit or credit card.
Flava told Which? some of its products appear expensive due to its supply chain that often sets the profit margin with the products being price marked.
It said as it's a one-year-old company, it doesn't have the same buying power as the other retailing supermarket giants, but intends to have a stronger buying position in time, resulting in further savings to customers.
As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, it's becoming increasingly tough for households to make ends meet.
Research by the Financial Conduct Authority reveals that 31% of households have seen a decrease in income since February.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Public Policy Research predicts that 1.1 million more people will face poverty by the end of 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
It's easy to see how Flava could appeal to households struggling with reduced income, but there are some risks to consider.
With a smaller range of items, you have a limited choice of what to buy, which could mean you spend more by having to go for branded items.
Also, you may find some products are more expensive like we did in our analysis above.
And putting off paying for your groceries could get you caught in a debt spiral. As Flava takes payments automatically, you could find yourself turning to expensive credit to cover the cost or other bills.
You'll need to be referred to a food bank, either through Jobcentre Plus, a social worker, Citizens Advice, a medical professional or your local authority.
If you aren't in touch with any of these organisations, you can still contact the food bank directly to ask for help.
You'll normally receive vouchers or a letter to exchange for food. You might get a few days' worth of meals, toiletries or cleaning products and credit for gas or electric pre-payments.
There are also charities, such as Freedom4Girls, that provide donated menstrual products to those in financial hardship.
Your child might be eligible for free school meals if you receive certain benefits.
You can find out if you're eligible on the Government website.
Schools are also being encouraged to keep their kitchens open during the pandemic, so they can continue to distribute free school meals.
The government is also planning a voucher scheme to ensure children who aren't entitled to free school meals still get fed.
Your council may have a local welfare assistance scheme you could apply for, designed for people on low incomes.
Each local authority runs their own scheme and has different criteria for eligibility.
Some offer small cash loans, food vouchers and free used furniture.
Help to Save is a government scheme for those on low incomes, where you get 50p for every £1 you save.
The maximum you can save is £50 a month, but you aren't required to save every month and there's no minimum amount.
You can withdraw the money from your account, which stays open for four years, at any time.
Regulators have set out rules for energy, credit and mortgage providers to support people who may be struggling to make payments during the pandemic.
Utility companies have also stressed that support is still available should households need it.
If you're struggling with any regular payments, it's well worth contacting your providers to see if you can come to an arrangement.