Avoiding the Tsunami

Retailers that don't discount: Do they still exist?
Posted January 23, 2020

As results trickle in from the holiday shopping period, there have been few surprises. One by one, a picture emerges of a retail sector that has a few problems in terms of getting shoppers through its doors without reducing prices.

The question is whether the tipping point been reached. Is this the moment at which the only thing that matters is how much money-off an item has been discounted and how much of a discount is required to make a shopper reach for their wallet? Well, for some retailers the answer is almost certainly yes. Consumers have been educated to view full prices as merely a suggestion, safe in the knowledge that if they wait a week or two, then a less costly alternative will be apparent.

Fortunately, there is another way. In the U.S., b8ta’s gadget shops look both whizzy and busy and yes, shoppers are parting with the money being demanded by the tablets that sit next to every product on display. In the U.K., note should be made of Next. This is a retailer that sells, for the most part, clothing and a smattering of homewares, and if you want to buy something, chances are good that it will be at full price.

In Next, if there are reductions to be had, they will be in the summer at a very specific and heavily marketed date with the same being true of the post-Christmas ‘sale’. Usually, there are queues that stretch around the block for a Next sale, with bargain hunters prepared to join a line in the small hours of the morning, if necessary. This is old-fashioned (and still meaningful) retailing of the kind that we once all expected. And the point is that both b8ta and Next are currently thriving in what others regard as a tsunami that is sweeping all before it.

Both also happen to put a heavy emphasis on display to stimulate the appetites of jaded consumers. There. Easy, isn’t it (at least to write)!

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.