Discounting Epidemic

Everyone wants a discount.
I mean, it is why we got into the industries that we’re in, right? So that we can get things for free. Oh, and to make a living. A free living.
It might seem laughable on paper, it might have you nodding your head or chuckling, but it’s true. We are all in industries of discounting. Many of us, or our employees, chose our role in specialty retail because of that promised discount. We have passions—that’s what makes us good at our jobs, too—and we’re looking for the tools to fulfill those passions; if they come with a cheaper price tag, all the more reason to take a job. Whether I’m the owner of a bike store or a sales associate on the floor of an outdoor retailer, I’m likely looking for the free or discounted goods to use outside those four walls. And that’s detrimental.
Now, we’re not saying that MAP pricing doesn’t hurt our industry, or that the internet and Amazon aren’t challenging us, or that discount culture is the sole source of our ailments. But it is true that our own minds and perspectives are far more destructive than outside sources.
I was recently with a group of retail owners in the running industry. We talked at length about low apparel sales (admittedly, a plague across all specialty channels), working through various arguments and strategies. An owner announced to the group, “I would never buy anything in my store. It is too expensive and doesn’t help my performance when I run.”
As a consumer, I was shocked and disappointed. But as a consultant, this mindset is a paralyzing epidemic. In his quest for quick profitability, this retail leader had completely lost sight of the intention of our line of business and simultaneously stymied his own success. That mindset of profit over investment, or the other side of the coin, discount over intention, is a common malady. If our ethos drives our industry, it is time for all of us to stop looking for discounts and start looking at our business, the product we carry and the people we hire with value.
We must stand tall with pride in what we offer to everyone who comes in our doors. We must sell our wares with intention and foresight and trust, and that’s how we should buy things, too. We must let go of the word “discount” and the ideas that come along with it.
When we come from a place of discount, we immediately devalue.
We devalue the new product.
We devalue our brand.
We devalue making money.
Instead, what if we shift our viewpoint to words like “premium,” “high-end,” “exceptional,” “superior?” Just writing these words out is more powerful than “bargain.”  Imagine if we began to say these words out loud and used them to foster value and a perspective of investment?
Imagine if rather than giving an “employee discount,” we gave employees exceptional careers? Careers that changed their lives and our communities. What if “pro deals” were replaced with accomplishments, achievements or investments in the actual careers of our retail staff on behalf of the sales rep or manufacturer? What if we were willing to invest in our employees rather than luring them in with the cheap promise of a discount?
Our industries, already so integrally tied to the outdoors, should take a cue from nature and build our foundations on that same strong backbone of unwavering integrity. Mountains have remained mountains for centuries; they don’t crumble when a hiker wants to pass. A trail doesn’t widen for a runner to have an easier run, nor does a tree move out of the way to allow a mountain biker to have the best ride of her life. And certainly fish don’t jump out of the water and say “catch me!” If this were to happen, we would devalue the outdoors. We would not stand in awe of the natural wonders; we’d become complacent.
Discounting is easy. It’s the short-term solution that builds on its own disadvantages and traps retailers in cycles of devaluing. You shouldn’t invest your business in discounts, and that means you personally shouldn’t seek out discounts above quality, either. Be like the mountain: stand proud and confident in your path and products and be willing to genuinely invest.

Change your mindset. Own your brand story and see the shift that will happen in your store culture when you are the premium brand.

Comments (4)

Why do you think the outdoor specialty retailer is any different than other businesses that discount? Consumers shop for groceries based on discounts, electronics, cars, apparel, cell phones, etc. If we don't come up with a plan to offer better pricing from manufacturers to retailers to be able to offer discounts we are doomed. Just as the big box stores consumed mom and pop grocery, garden centers, office stores, etc. Oh we have service? That's bullshit too…we as consumers have been trained to throw things away and buy new, not fix them. Why is it that walmart is the largest bicycle retailer, Lowes sells millions of mowers and grills, it's because consumers are trained to buy at discount prices, throw it away when broken and buy new…he'll I would love that in my store. You guys gotta quit getting paid by the manufactures to preach to the retiles and let us retailers pay you to preach to the manufactures!

Very well written article! I love the analogy of the mountain. Giving away a small repair as a thank you for the customer buying expensive parts seems fair, but I try to inform other mechanics that our skills are valuable and when they give away their work it makes us all look unprofessional. That is what will save the L.B.S., good service at a fair price. Nobody haggles when they drop the car off for service!

Thanks for writing in and brining up some good points! The discounting epidemic is, as you noted, pervasive across retail sectors. One solution for this ubiquitous problem might be for manufacturers to lower prices—but it’s certainly not the only solution. It’s going to take changes across industries—beginning with a shift in mentality—to truly make a difference. Thanks for reading!

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