Wednesday, August 11, 2010

If You Price It Right, We Will Buy It

Dear American Retailers:

I know that sales are down. I know that consumer confidence is down. I know that various pundits would have us believe that the economy is in the crapper. And, much as it bothers me ethically, I also know that the recovery of that economy depends on us, the American consumers. On a planet with diminishing resources, I wish that it were not that way, but it is. We must spend. We must buy. And so, I would offer you just the smallest piece of advice: if you price your merchandise right, we will buy it.

Oh, yes, we will buy it, if you price it right. Even if there is no money in our checking accounts, we will buy it. Even if we had thought about using that money for our children's educations, we will buy it. Heck, even if alien spacecraft settle over our major cities with dubious intent, we will buy it. If you price it right.

Case in point: the Kindle II. Drop the price of that baby to $189 and the darn things sell out. And out comes the even better Kindle III for the same price, and even a cheaper version, and I'm guessing people are buying those, too. Now, is Amazon making any money on all of this? I have no idea, and that's not really my problem. That's yours. My patriotic duty is to spend; your obligation to your own survival is to carve out a profit margin. We each have our jobs.

See, here's the thing. People say that economy is struggling and all of that. I'm not minimizing that. I've seen the numbers. I worry about where the unemployed will ever find employment again. But if I take a drive around town, there's no indication at all that the economy is struggling. The restaurants are crowded. The stand-alone stores that provide services like automotive repair or selling drugs are crowded. There are plenty of cars at the malls and in the large stores like Wal-Mart or Target. The upscale grocery stores do not lack for customers. Now, are people buying anything? Are they spending as much as they used to? I don't know. My patriotic duty is to go to stores several times a week; it's your obligation to figure out how to get me to spend my money while I'm there.

You've got us conditioned, so you just have to figure out what you're going to do with that. We find it "natural" to go to stores as part of our regular cycles of life--we come to see what's new or because it's Saturday morning or because some gift card is burning a hole in our pocket or even because we find a strange kind of comfort in the familiarity of your stores. We are consumers, after all. We depend on your being there as much as you depend on us.

Heck, even the zombies in Dawn of the Dead gravitated towards the mall.

But you're going to have to get increasingly imaginative if you want us to buy, buy, buy. You're going to have to think of ideas that you haven't thought of and to take risks that you haven't taken. Set up a deal with the places in the Food Court. If you sell clothes, work something out with another place that sells accessories. If you sell items that about to lose the battle to newer, better technology, have a blowout sale.

It is my sense that retailers are still being tentative, are still trying to reel us in with too many strings attached. The place where my daughter works, which I can't name, let's call it Pineapple Nation, had a huge sale a few weeks ago, 40% off. But that was only if you used your Pineapple Nation credit card. Wait, so in order to get a good buy, I've got to get sucked back into the same kind of crappy credit trap that helped get us in trouble in the first place? No, thanks.

When I was a teenager, there was a record store that would, once or twice a month, have sales that didn't start until midnight but that allowed us to get three records for what we would normally spend on two. Do you think that place wasn't packed? Do you think it wasn't an event for teenagers who came from all over the city? Do you think it didn't boost sales? It broke every rule of marketing and profit margins, but it worked. And no one cared that they had to increase the price by a dollar every couple of years.

Or, maybe, not so imaginative. Just drop the prices. Drop them as low as you can stand and make sure we know about it. Drop them on things that you never drop them on. Make Apple actually have a sale.

If you think we are digging holes in our backyards and burying our money in them, you are wrong. We just want to buy in ways that seem advantageous to us.

Oh, yeah, and, Target, if you want us to remain loyal customers, how about not giving money to anti-gay politicians? We can't wash the odor of intolerance out of the shirt we bought at your store, no matter how many times we wash it.


jed said...

Bob, are you not posting songs anymore?

Bob said...

Well, I might, but I was wondering if someone would notice first,'ve thrown down the gauntlet, eh?

jed said...

no. just wondering. especially after Billy's "Musical Genocide" post.