A Discussion by Dave Barringer
National Chief Executive Officer
How Do We Know What Works?
Which pricing strategies and tools work best for your store? Here is what you must do to get to this answer.
- Know the store’s mission. Some thrift stores are designed to make the most money possible and then use the profits to fund other SVDP programs that have no funding on their own. Other stores are designed with a specific charitable intent to give away a lot of goods, but they still need to make some profit to pay the bills and stay in business. Both are fine, but you can’t do both at the same time! Your Board of Directors and leadership need to know clearly how stores fit into the overall SVDP program. Pricing strategy follows.
- Know our customers. In part due to the above, everything from your store location to pricing needs to be based on your anticipated customers. If you are giving away so much, maybe your store is in a poor area of the city and prices need to be lower. Usually, however, our best customers are middle-income shoppers who have many choices where to spend their retail dollars. The store therefore needs to be where these shoppers live and shop other retailers, and prices can be set higher and still be affordable. A common, historical, view of thrift stores is that these are stores where poor people shop. Most current thrift stores are designed for middle-income people both to donate and shop, with profits going to assist the poor.
- Test, test, test! The beauty of pricing is that you can change it. Consider a new pricing strategy in just one of our multiple stores, or in just one department if you have only one store. Check staff and customer observations and reactions. Certainly, check the differences in sales and profits. You will likely need at least one month, maybe several for some ideas, to see if a new program is working effectively.
- Pro testing tip: Test only one thing at a time. For example, don’t run a new advertising campaign at the same time as new price points. Which one brought more people to the store? Which one created more sales? It can be hard to tell. The more you isolate any factor, the easier it is to measure. By the way, advertising brings people to the store, while pricing, customer service and enough goods on the shelves create more sales. Advertising often gets too much credit for sales, when it should only be measured for store traffic. But that’s another article…
- Use the POS! A Point of Sale (POS) system is a tremendous resource in evaluating pricing strategies. Using categories, price points, units sold vs. processed etc., gives you a great deal of useful information that can help you evaluate pricing change effectiveness over time and department/category. Sometimes what feels like success, such as increased store activity, is disproven by cold, hard facts when it comes to profitability.
Effective thrift store pricing can be designed to create shopper excitement, drive additional sales, and maintain needed profits. It must be designed with the end in mind – your goals for the store program amidst the rest of the Society’s goals. Pricing must be considered in the context of the neighborhood economy, the competition, and the availability of continuous product flow. Finally, pricing strategy and execution can be, and must be evaluated to ensure that “you get what others are paying for” in funds for the Society’s mission and activities. In the end, we are not retailers. We are used goods collectors and resellers working to advance our mission. Effective pricing leaves no potential dollars on the table that we could be using to serve people in need. Please do not be afraid to raise prices. After all, your costs probably have risen, and you need to cover these costs just as any other retailer. However, please do be somewhat afraid to lower your prices. The first cents taken off are always your profit!
If you have a topic that you would like addressed in a future Stores Corner article, please e-mail Jeff Beamguard, National Director of Stores Support.