Sale mania

December 28, 2019

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Illustrations: Sidra Jangda
Illustrations: Sidra Jangda

SOCIAL media is replete with examples of people pushing and pulling each other to grab discounts when a sale at a high-end brand opens up. I remember a social media post from a girl whose dress was being pulled at a high-end store during sale time until she screamed that she was wearing it and it was not a sale item. The sight of the crowd rushing violently to grab discounts resembles the herd of bulls running wildly at the San Fermin festival.

Brands offer discounts to draw customers to their stores, put themselves in the limelight and increase their profits. When you walk up to a shopping mall, you will see many outlets running sales. This is because the presence of a sale sign, even without a price reduction, has the potential to help pocket more profits. Javaria Sohaib, a Pakistani national now living in Cambodia, does not shop during the sale spree specifically. However, she tries to grab the discount if she notices a sale going on during her regular visits to malls. She says sometimes brands offer good discounts on quality products, whereas other times they just put poor quality products on sale. “On the contrary, foreign countries offer sale on original items but they have an equal number of people going crazy over them like we see in Pakistan.”

The profit earned during this sale season can be estimated from the fact that brands now design exclusive advertisements promoting their sales via hoardings, print, electronic and social media. Brands tease shoppers with previews, brew up their anticipation, and try to lure them with special online deals and flash sales.

Sania Fatima of Karachi believes brands offer good bargains during sale time. She supports the sale trend because people who can’t buy things in actual prices can make the most of sales. “While these discounts have brought high-end brand within the reach of common man, it has increased brand consciousness among people, particularly the middle-income group,” she adds.

Yasmeen Asghar of Karachi believes foreign countries offer amazing reductions in prices; hence people wait for Black Friday or holiday season to grab discounts. She believes that sales in Pakistan are not genuine. “Brands offer sale just to make good money. They increase prices before placing items on sale and then reduce prices as sale items,” she remarks.

It may well be a psychological thing more than anything else, but the word ‘sale’ has its magic that has survived the test of time. It makes people rush to grab what they might not even need. They feel good. The brands feel better!

The prices mentioned on the tags affect customers because of various factors such as how often they visit the store, how much they spend, and their ability and willingness to retain, process and recall prices. A research conducted on consumer behaviour reveals that consumers have a price reference in their minds based on their previous experiences with a brand, competitor brands, or similar products. This reference plays a key role in determining changing market prices and a good value on discounts. Consumers consider something as a “good deal” if its internal reference price in their minds is higher than the sale price.

The decision to make a purchase also depends upon the “differential price threshold” – the minimum amount required to cause a change in perception, a study suggests. For instance: a dress priced at 4000 PKR may not attract a customer with a five per cent discount tag but the same customer may find it a good deal with a 20 per cent discount. According to studies, this 20 per cent discount attracts customers because it changes the left-most digit in the price from a 4 to 3 (4000 PKR to 3200 PKR). According to a research, the left-most digit is very important in price perception – that’s why so many discounts end at 99 cents.

Online shopping is the best solution to avoid the crazy crowd and catch the deal at the same time. Ayesha Shamoon feels that it is good to buy online during the sale season as in-store shopping becomes a hassle because of the crowd. She believes that offering discount is a great marketing strategy for brands to get rid of the old stock before the new stock hits the shelves.

Neha Zubair, too, makes the most of these discounts through online shopping. While she has not faced any single quality issue on sale items she wonders how sale items, sometimes, end within few minutes of being up on sale. The young shopaholic believes that sometimes brands accept more orders than the stock present hence cancelling them later cause inconvenience to the customers. She regards Sapphire’s 70% off to be the best of all bargains offered by any brand.

Like Neha, many people wonder about those who barge high-end stores during the sale and empty the stock within just few hours. While some from this crazy crowd are genuine customers, others are home-based retailers. These discounts have paved way for a new segment of small merchants who shop like crazy during the sale, stock items of all sizes and later sell them online making more profits. “Those who miss the sale of renowned brands can still get some items from these home-based sellers at discounted prices,” says Sara Salman.

Sometimes, these discounts lure customers into buying things they don’t even need. This race of offering discounts has stirred a competition among brands of offering the most bargains which goes in favour of the customers. Baneen Fatima believes that it all depends on the eyes of the purchaser to pick and select a great item from sale. She believes that these sales have made brands affordable for people who cannot make purchases from these brands otherwise.

“But sometimes brands just play with the minds of customers and keep the price same or decrease them slightly under the big tags of sale. In reality they don’t offer discounts,” believes Kehkashan Khan.

In the discount game, brands can appear as winners or losers; it all depends upon the timing on the discount besides other factors. Besides seasonal discounts for stock clearance, brands offer special discounts on special festivals such as Eid. But people lament that while they get good bargains during their religious festivals in a foreign land, brands in Pakistan raise the prices of each commodity to cash in on opportunity. Dure Shahwar Zaidi, a resident of Sadiqabad, believes that sales in Pakistan are not real sales because brands offer outdated products or off-season clothes on discounts. However, unstitched clothes of some brands are better, she adds. She considers herself among the minority group which doesn’t get attracted to sales as she has witnessed ladies pulling each others’ hair during the Sapphire sale. She laments that brands raise the prices of their products during Ramadan or Eid season, whereas the products during Black Friday or Christmas in foreign countries are actually available on discounts.

But why do people fall to the sale hype? Experts believe that a great deal triggers a psychological pleasure of joy. Limited time sale creates a sense of urgency among the people and compel them to buy. Sometimes, grabbing a great deal makes a customer feel superior and they are swept away with the hype. Whatever the reason, sales and discounts bring in fresh customers, improve a brand’s reputation and increase sales across the board. It is a total win-win game for the brand.