Friday, October 19, 2007

Tip of the Week - offer to pay U.S. prices

By now we’ve all heard enough about the amazing deals being had shopping south of the border. Book and magazines have been an easy target because Canadian and U.S. prices are printed on their covers and the gauging is terribly obvious. What hurts even more is when the book has been printed in Canada!

I was at Banana Republic and a sales associate told me she won’t even buy anything there anymore. Wonder why? She knows something I was able to figure out pretty quickly. I was browsing and what I saw wasn’t pretty.

One sweater was marked with a $75 regular price, a $59.99 sale price in an initial markdown and a $49.99 sale price from another markdown. The same sweater in another size was marked $58 dollars regular price and a sale price of $59.99 - WTF? The second sweater had a tag printed for the U.S. market and it hadn’t been switched before it made it on to a Canadian store shelf. Someone made a boo boo.

Okay, so we haven’t had parity for very long but the loonie hasn't been 30% lower than the U.S. greenback for a long, long time. Even the with the first markdown, us Canadians were still being hosed with a 3.5% increase over the price initially charged to our U.S. neighbours.

To a certain extent, I understand that retailers are the middle-men getting their butts kicked. But why did they agree to pay such a huge premium for merchandise in the first place? Unfortunately, when it comes to the American chains and Canadian customers, they may still get our biz, just not on Canadian soil and that's the pits for our economy.

Some retailers have figured out they need to slash prices big time. Others have embraced consumer education campaigns.

But I’m going to try something else and maybe if you do too, we’ll be able to shop here again without feeling duped. Next time you want to buy something that has both Canadian or U.S. prices marked, and/or you have proof the exact same item is being sold for a lower price in the U.S., ask the store if you can pay the U.S. price.

What do you think? Will you try this the next time you go shopping?

Tags: Banana Republic, book sellers, cross-border shopping, loonie, parity


  1. The issue of parity with US prices is so big with the media, but I don't understand it.

    Of course things cost more in Canada. For one, retailers buy things months in advance and would have paid for the merchandise when the looney was much weaker.

    Second, things cost more to sell here. Labour costs are higher here, not to mention we have more various business taxes.

    Plus, we're such a small market that no one is going to give us the deals that American chains can negotiate.

    If a strong currency means that things should be cheaper, that certainly isn't the case in the U.K., Germany or Scandinavia.

    Still this should account for a small price difference - eg. as with books - not the huge price differences one can find with electronics, cars, clothes, etc. In these cases, the price difference really doesn't make sense.

  2. I think there are some instances where a price disparity makes sense, especially if shipping and duty are involved but that's minimal. Parity is new but a neck-and-neck dollar isn't. Even if retailers purchased their stock several months ago, I'm not sure they paid an extra 25%+ on the dollar.

    However, there are many instances that are hard to justify like the huge disparity in car and electronics prices. When it comes to books being published here, how can retailers justify selling them for roughly 25% more?

    Just today I placed an online order with a local shop. U.S. prices are about 20% higher online. However, you can pay using paypay where the currency is adjusted. I spoke to a store rep. who told me they have adjusted their prices to reflect the current value of the dollar. If they can do it, why can't others.

    Bottom line, the perception is that we're being ripped off by retailers. Shoppers are going to the U.S. in droves. If retailers want to keep Canadian consumers in Canada, the onus is on them to attract business.


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