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Jim Green's blog

Uncommon Common Sense #9

October 18, 2011

I have been posting examples of common sense marketing since my post of August 19 because I wanted to cause readers to think about whether his/her business uses common sense strategies and tactics. I think that common sense, more than anything else, drives businesses. Sometimes, these common sense decisions may not be monumental. But, they also may be the difference between achieving moderate and excellent success. If one disagrees with my viewpoints that is fine. At least I was able to inspire some reflection. This is Common Sense Example #9.

Common Sense Example #9 Low-End and Fashion. When a customer buys a new sofa for $299 he or she is not just buying it just to have something to sit on. I think this is a concept some forget in our industry. This customer is still looking for some fashion, as he or she perceives fashion to be. Of course, there is no accounting for tastes in others, but the customer is still looking to buy something that looks good to her and something of which to be proud. The $300 is what she can afford or at least what she has allocated to spend. She doesn't want it to look like a $300 sofa. When some competing at the lower end of the price spectrum proclaim, "It is all about price", they are telling only half the story. The "Price" is only what the customer intends to spend. It is not the specific merchandise he or she is going to spend it on or from which retailer will get the order.

I understand that at the more promotional levels there is still the tendency to buy by the pound; bigger may be thought of as better value. This probably isn't going to change anytime soon. But, a nice looking item will always sell better than an ugly one. I learned this lesson very early in my career as a merchant and it never failed me. I was initially taught not to buy what I liked; buy what I thought would sell. So that's what I did. Some worked and a lot did not. Out of frustration and lacking the success I thought I should have achieved, I made a decision. I concluded that I would only buy the merchandise I liked and saw value in. Not necessarily merchandise I would want in my home, but I had to like the merchandise for what it was. For example at the time, Early American styling was popular. I only bought EA furniture that was pleasing to me as Early American furniture. My track record immediately turned around and from that point forward my winners greatly outnumbered my bombs.

My point is that common sense dictates that regardless of the dollars spent, customers want to feel good about what they buy. They want to like it. Some retailers may use the lowest price points as loss leaders and perhaps select products that exhibit less appeal. This to me is a misguided strategy. Every customer is entitled to the best the store has to offer at every price level in which it competes. I think as much care should go into the selection of the lowest price product (given what is available) as the highest at which the company competes. It just makes sense.