As I strolled down Oxford Street the other day, it struck me that it has become an almost monthly occurrence to see the red ‘sale’ signs being put up and then taken down again, followed by shiny new ranges landing on the shelves and rails. And even in between there is still a constant stream of offers and deals to be had – be it discount vouchers, event days or other forms of price cutting – all designed to get us to continue parting with our hard earned cash. This picture is repeated at stores throughout the country.
However, as the economy stutters and stumbles its way towards recovery, the ever-growing challenge that exists for both retailers and brands – from food to fashion – is how to wean shoppers off the now customary deals and offers into paying for full-price merchandise?
Whilst the flow of discount coupons and special offers does not appear to be abating any time soon, there is now a palpable feeling of fatigue beginning to affect weary shoppers. I mean, who pays the full price for a meal in a high street pizzeria or for a new pair of jeans at a classic American outfitter? A new sofa? Not without the customary 50% off! Why buy dishwasher tablets at full price, when they’ll be on offer next week and when they are you can stock up with three packs? But whilst getting a bargain feels great, are we beginning to loose the sense of knowing what things really cost? All this trawling around for the best deals is starting to get a bit tiring, yet we feel like we cannot afford not to.
One might argue that it will be a brave retailer that weans shoppers off discounts and vouchers. However, I believe that the current prevailing pricing strategy is short sighted and is actually doing long-term harm, not just on margin but also on brand loyalty. Brands are actively training their customers to only buy at a discount and if one’s not offered, to go elsewhere.
It might sound controversial, but how about a brand or retailer that pledges to end offers and permanently cut its prices by 30%? One that limits sales to truly end-of-line clearances? Or a product brand that ends BOGOFs, Twofors and discounts in favour of long-term consistent and clear price point? The only retailer that comes closest is John Lewis, yet they still only lower their prices in response to competitor offers. Perhaps Amazon is consistent in terms of seemingly to always be the lowest price. Sainsbury’s has been clever with its ‘price perceptions data’ advertising.
However, there’s still a long way to go. So, which brand or retailer will take the plunge and be the first to make a stand?