Ian Baldwin: Aim High With Your Pricing This Spring

Bundle Pricing sign at Farmington GardensNote: The following is the latest blog posting by garden retail industry consultant Ian Baldwin. It was originally posted on March 15, 2017.

Recently, I stayed at a hotel for three nights, each of which was priced separately at $129, $161, and, wait for it, $234! When I asked the front desk why, they immediately reduced the third night back to $161. They just dropped it more than 30% without protest. Clearly they were pricing to make some money off those who were unaware or just didn’t care.

That’s not my suggested strategy for garden retail this spring, but the incident underscores just how much padding other consumer product pricing has built into it. Does yours?

Since my last blog post, I have met more than 30 independent retail owners and walked many stores to continue the discussion about price raises this year. Most answers were too timid and non-strategic. Yet at the same time, I hear every job applicant asking for a higher starting wage than last year.

A client told me that unless he raises sales by $200,000 (on a total of $3 million) he will be going backwards this year, due to his state’s rise in minimum wage.

One owner circulated my last blog to his team, but his managers and buyers came up with no suggested products to raise prices on, even though they had asked for wage increases. Employees can find it hard to connect those dots, often judging retail pricing in the context of their own household income. Unfortunately many retail employees don’t think they can afford to shop where they work.

Pricing must be driven down from the top. It’s a strategic decision that has to come from you.

This is the Year to (Finally) Make Some Money!

The 2017 reality is that household credit card debt is approaching 2008 levels, car sales are at record highs, and planes, restaurants, and cruise ships are full again. It may not be equal in all demographics or regions, but many American households, especially those who shop at independent retail garden and hardware stores, are spending again.

In many independents, 70% of sales revenue is spent on inventory and labor. Conservative price raises on these major costs are 3% to 5% on cost of goods and 4% to 8% on labor rates in the first half of this year. So, if your sales don’t increase by 5% to 6%, you are indeed going backwards.

The choice is clear: raise your prices 5% to 8% or sell a lot more units.

But most supplier prices are set in the summer, so today’s prices were set last year. Rumors in the green goods side of the industry suggest 10% to 15% increases for 2017-2018, so retailers had better make some money this year!

Be Aspirational, Not Apologetic!

Twenty years ago, garden retailers became used to sales increases of 10% per year. Today, we have let ourselves become overcautious, influenced by the last few years of recession.

We need to snap out of it.

Pricing increases should be big enough to be aspirational for the team, something managers can get behind as a rallying cry for the year’s business. “Shoot for 15% and settle for 12%,” as an associate of mine with years of senior leadership in manufacturing and retailing behind him would say. You won’t hear corporate America politely asking for 3% to 5%. I’d like to bet that numbers of 10% to 12% are being baked into binding, job-preserving goals all across the country. What are yours?

Next topic, coming soon: quick-fix sales increase ideas before it’s too late this spring!

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