The thrill of the chase for a bargain.

North Sydney on a beautiful Saturday morning. What could be the attraction enticing these people to wait for Aldi to open? The excitement of a bargain, that’s what! Like moths to a flame, these shoppers attracted to a long line to grab a deal.

In what continues to amaze some of us who came from the old school of ranging and assortment, Aldi continues to stock almost everything you wouldn’t expect in a low-cost supermarket. Wetsuits, washing machines, microwaves and sundry random categories. One of their most successful sales is the winter ski gear one, and that was happening today.

What is it about a sale and the possibility of snaring something 50 or maybe even 70% off? It’s almost like a battle and consumers just love to think they’ve managed to ‘cost’ the retailer by getting their item at a bargain price. I know I’m a victim myself – when that OUTNET Extra 30% off drops into my inbox of a Friday, I can’t wait to apply my filters and see what’s there. The joy of finding something already discounted 65% and then getting an extra 30% discount is the stuff of heart palpitations.

But why is it so exciting, and what is the danger of continued deep discounts? Well, the danger is that we fall in love with them and our pricing reference point drops – meaning that at regular pricing we feel as if we’re paying too much. I can’t tell you the last time I paid $2.50 for my little cans of tuna. If they’re not discounted to $1.25, I simply wait until the next week because invariably they drop down so that my expectation is never to pay more than $1.25.

The “wait for it to go on sale” behaviour is now endemic. Remember when the major department stores ran genuine sales only twice a year? Our discount mentality has put a stop to that, and if it’s not something we need right now, there’s a fair chance that it will go on sale soon enough. And if you happen to be an irregular size, well the joy is with you. I often envy my sister and her size 35.5 feet. Unfortunately, if you’re a 38-39 that means less choice when the outstanding sales start. But I digress….

For higher involvement and higher priced products, the discount mentality is compounded by the freely available information online. If you’re going to splash out $500 on a new pair of boots, it’s very worthwhile to spend just 5 minutes researching, finding the best deal possible on the desired item and then buy online. And it’s not only females who are fond of the hunt. Recent studies show that men are just as likely to be engaging in bargain behaviour (Hill & Harmon, 2009) and other research that the thrill of the hunt is potentially satisfying some “masculine” goals like status, success and power (Herman, 1998). The power seems to be squarely in the hands of the consumer once again, and the game has changed. Retailers only have themselves to blame – they started the whole messy business.


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