Half what price?

I was at B&Q when they broke it.

A few years before that, I was at MFI. We had two months a year in which all our kitchens were full-price, and we all went on holiday; the rest of the time, they were half-price. Later on, we experimented with having half the range full-price at a time, so that there was always something half-price. Sometimes, we’d offer something on top, and even something on top of that: I remember trying to explain to customers that 50% plus 20% plus 10% isn’t actually 80%, and it was all made-up anyway.

It was legal – still is -, but, obviously, according to common sense, if something’s one price nearly all the time, then that’s the real price.

B&Q, while I was there, decided to abandon all that, and go EDLP: Every Day Low Price. They chose to do it at the start of their Winter Sale, without telling staff or customers, and it was devastating for their sales and, ultimately, their model: they’ve adapted, but the designers are gone, the installation service is gone, and they sell different things now, differently.

Wren launched with a strong statement against see-saw pricing, but it didn’t last. Their approach now is similar to that of the trade outlets, Howdens and Benchmarx: there’s a list price, and in theory you’d pay it if you bought just one or two items, but if you buy a kitchen, you get it half-price. When I was there – and I don’t think it’s changed -, it was physically impossible (without hacking) to sell a kitchen at its full price, ever. Since a ruling against them by the Advertising Standards Authority, they’ve been making this clearer.

Again, according to common sense, if that’s the price all the time, then it’s not really half-price: that’s the price.

The way the trade outlets work it, there’s the list price, but they only sell to trade, and trade gets the discount. As at Wren, you can’t pay full price even if you want to.

The Winter Sale’s the same. The days when it was really about clearing unsold seasonal stock – if those days ever existed at all for big-ticket items like kitchens – are long gone. The Winter Sale is like all the other sales, all year ‘round.

I’ve often used the phrase – I’ve used it elsewhere on this site – “Hurry up and buy, before the price stays the same!” Some retailers still use the MFI approach – put the price up for a bit, then bring it back down -, and some the Wren one, but nobody – nobody – sells kitchens at one price for most of the year, then at half of it in January.

There’s an argument that if you believe it, you get what you deserve. I think that’s a bit harsh, because I don’t think businesses should be tricking people just because it’s easy. It’s not going away, because look at what happened to B&Q when they went solo: it would need everyone to do it at once, and that’s not going to happen. But don’t be fooled: kitchens aren’t really half-price, and you’ll pay pretty much the same next week, or at the worst next month.

I don’t always post my references, but here are some:



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