28/08/2001 - 22:00

The sales just ain’t what they used to be

28/08/2001 - 22:00

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SHOPPING at the sales traditionally has been a time of frenzied activity for excited bargain hunters.But the frequency of sales these days has taken away some of the lustre, leaving many consumers questioning whether the sales are genuine.

The sales just ain’t what they used to be
SHOPPING at the sales traditionally has been a time of frenzied activity for excited bargain hunters.

But the frequency of sales these days has taken away some of the lustre, leaving many consumers questioning whether the sales are genuine.

But the seemingly endless end-of-season, mid-season, clearance and stocktake sales have come at a price for retailers big and small, according to the retail sector.

The concept of a sale has been so cheapened that consumers are becoming more reluctant to reach for their wallets unless there is a red and white sign above the item, according to WA Retailers Association chief executive officer Martin Dempsey.

“Consumers wait for the price of an item to come down, they wait for the sales,” Mr Dempsey said.

“Customers now believe sale prices are the prices they should be paying, and no more.”

Not surprisingly, this damaging mentality has hit smaller retailers hard, with customers expecting them to offer the same kind of discounts advertised in big department stores.

“Smaller operators can’t afford to do the deep discounting that big operators can … and that can really hurt the small retailer because they simply cannot compete,” Mr Dempsey said.

Mallabone’s Luggage & Leather principal Fred Mallabone agreed that smaller retailers found it hard to compete with big department stores, but said they often were left without much choice.

“When the big stores go on sale, of course we have to try and compete, it is a matter of business survival,” he said.

“We keep our ears to the ground and rely on our sources to find out when the bigger stores are going to stage a sale, and we follow.

“It makes things very difficult because sales eat into the margins and make profits very tight, however the public don’t understand this.

“What we have to get through to the consumers is the full price on the item is what it costs, and they can buy it or not buy it, but that is what it costs.”

But John Stanley & Associates managing director John Stanley suggested small retailers took a different tack and resisted the temptation to follow suit when a big department store launched a sale.

“Customers have been trained by retailers to expect more sales, and there are definitely more sales periods than before … we are edging toward a perennial sale season, which is scary,” Mr Stanley said.

“It is difficult to get customers out of the sales mentality … but one way is to look at providing different services, different value adding promotions, using different sales strategies altogether.

“Retailers should offer a more complete package, a more one-on-one customer experience.”

Mr Stanley said “thinking for the customer, not like the customer” was a valuable distinction that small retailers should learn to generate a point of difference for themselves.

“For example, some super-markets are putting fruits, such as grapefruits, in the breakfast cereal aisle, it generates ideas for customers,” he said.

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