Industry Voices: The Art of the Possible

Address price-roaming instead of worrying about showrooming

In order to survive and grow, a retailer’s rate of change has to accelerate faster than the rate of consumer change.

For the last 60 years, retailers have collectively trained and motivated consumers—through advertising and marketing across every demographic—to be hyper-sensitive to price. J.C. Penney, for example, recently learned that you can’t take away coupon promotions, discounts and savings from consumers and expect to grow profits. Why? Because retail is based on legacy brand performance, tough competition, supply based economics, and consumer price sensitivity. More than ever, the retail industry serves an army of smart, well-trained shoppers who love to price-roam to find the best prices they can.

By the way, J.C. Penney just delivered one of its worst quarters ever: sales declined 23 percent to $3 billion dollars, same-store sales fell 22 percent and Internet sales sank 33 percent to $220 million dollars. It’s time for J.C. Penney to reinstate discounts and sales, generate traffic and re-motivate same-store sales growth. So says consumers; so says stockholders.

In contrast, Costco, Walmart, Kohl’s, Sam’s Club, Macy’s, CVS, P.C. Richard, hh gregg and Amazon, along with many more retailers, have proven that the best price-value equation works extremely well for their customers and profit-hungry stock holders. Frankly, the consumer just wants to pay the best price for same products, especially categories above $100.

Consumers, not manufacturers or retailers, rule. Consumers demand best price and do not want to find out they paid more for the same product elsewhere. Consumers are not willing to pay extra just because you have a large retail store, sales people or tech support. This is fair, and retailers need to adapt to over-exposed, under-leveraged pricing online in order to compete.

Retailers that decide to carry physical overhead must remember that consumers will decide whether or not they’ll pay extra for the experience of in-store shopping.

Peter Weedfald is President of Gen One Ventures, a sales, marketing and brand-product consulting company. He has served as SVP, Chief Marketing Officer of Circuit City, SVP of Sales and Marketing in North America for Samsung, and SVP of global marketing and EEVP, GM & Chief Marketing Officer for ViewSonic.
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  • Barry G.

    Just found this article on Executive Exchange. Agree that consumers now rule and speed of keeping up with them in a new vista into competitive opportunity. The real question is who is keeping up and who is falling behind. Clearly results measured in traffic and dollars tells us the anser. Very good thinking here.