B A R G A I N

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.

R I T U A L S

Well, ANZAC Day and Easter have both now passed for another year.  I’ve written before about nostalgia and the consistency and comfort of ‘home’.  This last week or two I have observed the solace we find in rituals in much the same way as nostalgia, and they are of course related.

The rituals around Easter are there whether you are religious or not.  They begin with the hot cross buns which seem to make their appearance in our supermarkets earlier and earlier every year.  I swear they were there before New Year’s Day.  We wouldn’t choose to buy stodgy bits of dough stuffed with raisins and currents at any other time (well….except maybe Christmas when we do the same thing with puddings), but it seems reasonable to do so in April.

Good Friday came, and as it approached, I found myself making sure we had enough seafood to get us through the day.  Why?  Do we even know why we abstain from meat on Good Friday anymore?  I for one have lost the meaning but not the desire to engage in the ritual.  So strange.

But the most exciting aspect for me this year was the plethora of Easter Egg hunts.  I was struck by the number of Instagram and Facebook posts by friends hosting Easter Egg hunts this year.  I need to remind you that my contemporaries are not parents of pre or primary school children but rather those in their 20’s and some approaching 30’s.  My husband thought I was a teeny bit mad when I came home from supermarket shopping with a stash of eggs for hiding, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t the only 50 plus-er engaging in the hunt shenanigans.  And I have no idea at whose insistence the hunts were happening (was it them or was it me?), but I do know that if we didn’t have one at our home, questions would have been asked.  Again, I have no idea what is behind the EEH but the ritual is fun, and I’m sure it will happen again next year.

Easter fun over and we had only two days post those holidays before ANZAC Day was upon us.  I had only recently visited the National Anzac Centre in Albany, WA and I would thoroughly recommend anyone else do so if you are in the area.  I suppose we’ve always engaged in the Anzac Day ritual as a family but this year having just read and learned a little more in Albany, it took on a little more meaning.  It was a glorious autumn day in Sydney, and while reported numbers were down a little, there were still hundreds lining the streets in the city to catch a glimpse of those marching.  It seems much more of a celebration now – with the descendants of veterans walking proudly wearing the badges of their loved ones.  Years ago it seemed more sombre.  I like the celebratory feel, and I am sure that the Anzac Day ritual of the march, followed by a few beers and some two up will continue for many years to come.  It felt good to be there and observe.  Just one more of the annual rituals helping to evoke many memories, thoughts, feelings and that sense of belonging that we all love.  They make us feel safe and certain about the future.

R E L A X I N G / R U M I N A T I N G

I’ve just spent a little over a week travelling through the south-west of Western Australia with friends.  Filled with beautiful beaches, amazing views, exciting wildlife, quaint towns and a landscape that seemed to be ever changing, there was plenty to see.  Yet as soon as that landscape became a little bit monotonous, I found myself looking for a device to pass the time.  I’m sure there was much that I missed – especially in the first few days.

We have trained ourselves out of relaxing.  No longer content with looking out a window or to watch what’s going on around us we seem to feel guilty if we are not absorbing some work or socially-related content, news information, checking email, doing our shopping or challenging ourselves to an online game.  We feel almost lazy if we’re not engaged in doing something. 

Have a look at any commuter train – nobody seems to look out of the window anymore.  They are too engrossed in their devices.  And while there is nothing inherently wrong with that – I’m sure they’re very productive – I wonder, when do we wonder?  When do we take time out just to think?  Perhaps we need to add think time to our routine along with exercise, meditation and all of the other things we need to fit into our busy schedules. 

Take some time to watch, to think, to relax, to ruminate.  10 minutes a day.  Once you get used to it, it’s quite liberating.

F O C U S G R O U P

I had a fantastic week last week connecting with a great bunch of consumers face to face.  Data is great and it fuels our marketing and product decisions but there is nothing like getting in front of people and asking their opinion in real time.  The other benefit is that you can dig where you need to so that you get not only the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ as well. If you only have the ‘what’ then you’re left with a bit bunch of questions about what to do with that ‘what.’

I’ve been working on a new offering in the F&B space and as I’ve said over and over again (at least it feels like I have so I hope it’s not too repetitive) ignoring Boomer Consumers is plain bad business.  They are cashed up and they’re keen to spend that cash unlike previous generations that were so very focused on preparing for the worst and making sure they had a plan B.

This next generation feels like they have done their bit – they’ve educated their children and set them off on their own path to success.  They’ve created a nest egg so they’re lifestyle is protected. Now it’s time to kick back and relax for the Boomer Consumers and that means they’re entering a phase of wanting to reward themselves.  That’s great news for premium and luxury brands and offerings because it means they have far greater elasticity in what they’re willing to pay for exactly what they want. But you’ll never know what that is, unless you ask them.  So, get out there and ask! Or ask me to do it for you!

W O R K P L A C E

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The changing face of the workplace.

Much is being written about the changing face of the workplace, remote working, coworking spaces along with the pros and now cons of open-plan spaces. I was pondering this as I sat in a busy city café between client meetings last week and it struck me that maybe open-plan offices were a contributor to the cafe’s success.

It seems the close-to-office-café is now a place to gather, to share weekend stories, to have a little whine about the working day, to laugh, to recharge, maybe to have an awkward conversation in relative privacy and of course to drink coffee. At around 10am in any office precinct, you’ll see a steady stream of purveyors of the black stuff ready with their refillable cups and loyalty cards. I recall hearing a couple of years back that a large top end of town legal practice in Sydney had employed their own baristas to circumvent the frequent exit of associates for their coffee fix. But I’m not convinced it’s a coffee fix. I think it’s more likely a simple reflection of the continued evolution of the workspace. If it were all about the coffee, the in-house barista would have worked. But it didn’t. So, I’m thinking it’s not about the coffee – or rather the coffee is the hygiene factor in this whole work-break thing.

What came before the cafe? I don’t remember heading out for a morning or afternoon coffee when I first started work (and yes, coffee existed them!). I do remember a water cooler with little paper cups and people would make their way to have a piccolo sized cup of water and engage in a social chat. But a piccolo cup of water hardly does the trick in 2019 because we need to guzzle three litres of the stuff each day and that would mean no time at your desk. Plus the paper cups are an absolute no-no.

Then there were the smokers – they had an excuse when finally smoking was banned inside office buildings. They had to have their fix and could, therefore, take a well-earned break because they were addicted and so we need to forgive their 15-minute absence each hour. Then they had to start hiding behind big wheelie bins and in dark alleys when the ban was extended.

It seems people have always been looking for quick work breaks sans guilt. But now that our daily water consumption is in megalitres, the watercooler chat has all but disappeared. And with open plan offices, socialising just for socialising-sake is very visible, and people feel exposed. When you could duck into someone’s office for a quick chat, that visibility wasn’t there. We can’t use a smoke as an excuse, and even if you did, you’d be flat out finding a smoking-buddy, so it’s now all about the coffee. Baristas, your future is assured (but not if you are in-house!).