A bargain isn’t a bargain if it’s not in your size. It’s a truism, but it’s a demonstrable fact that greed often puts common sense on hold. And before any men out there start to get too smug about who is the most vulnerable to the ‘it’s half price so I must have it!’ syndrome. Watch and see how many of them come away from a sale with a bagful of hardware ‘essentials’ destined to gather dust in their shed or the attic.
Actually, to be fair, it’s not just greed that drives this kind of behaviour. It’s the inbred conviction that cheap equals good or necessary, a misconception reinforced by every sale ad, window banner and price ticket ever printed.
No retailer is ever going to tell you that their own brand product is only half as durable – or nutritious – as the top brand alternative. Or, that they’ve bought a load of old tat as a loss leader. On the contrary, they will vaunt its ‘value-for-money’, with its implication that these are quality goods that have been discounted for a quick sale.
My grandmother, who was raised in tough times, knew better. She would say, “buying dear is cheap in the long run – and vice versa”, which is another way of saying you get what you pay for. The best way to make a saving is to make an investment – it’s what getting value-for-money is all about.
However, in the wake of the recession, and perhaps accelerated by it, there is a change in consumer perceptions that is beginning to question the throwaway society and embrace anew my grandmother’s quest for real value, the kind that strikes a balance between price and quality.
Confirming this is the changing strategy of the supermarket giants. On the one hand we’ve seen Waitrose launch their ‘1000 products for the same price as Tescos’, and Asda, in a bid to prove they’re not always as cheap as chips, launch their ‘4000 own branded products of equal value to branded goods’.
The posh and the bargain basement come to the problem from either end of the spectrum, but both recognise the essential truth that consumers are now looking harder than ever at the brands they buy, and breaking out of their habitual ‘I buy this because I’ve always bought it’ and ‘I shop here because I’ve always shopped here’ mentality, and are now looking for value-for-money in every sense of the term.