To Fathom The Shopping Habits – Are We The Nation of Scrooges?

I adore getting a good bargain and fighting for the best price. I remember 2 hours of negotiations/bargaining/haggling in Jerusalem markets for the beautiful Persian rug. I joked with the owner and promised to become his third wife. That cemented the deal.)

I also remember buying jade in Beijing for the best price. It happened in Panjiayuan market. The seller would write the price, I would write back, as a rule of thumb, half of the price. The seller would get enthusiastically upset, I would go opposite direction and then we would agree on somewhere in the middle. The deal was done, everybody was happy. That is a market behaviour.

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Here, however, I would like to talk about us, Australians. in Australia we started to negotiate in the shops where the prices are set and are usually non-negotiable. This phenomenon struck me as being specifically ours, Australian.

In Russia people get their VIP cards with the discount applied to them. VIP cards usually allow them to participate in certain events or to shop/get special benefits with certain partners, participating in the VIP program. VIP cards are also accumulative, and in many cases people can get as much as 20% off the new stock and some gifts together with purchase. To have this privilege though, the clients must spend around 3k to start climbing VIP ladder.

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I have been living in Australia for the last 25 years and I did not start seeing this “negotiating” culture until 5 years ago.

Before then, there were no “Start of Season Sales”, “Mid Season Sales”, “Clearance Sales”, “Last Chance Clearance Sales” with David Jones and Myer coming down to 70% discount even before the main sales would start, on the 26th of December and on the 1st of July.

Now the word “Sales” adorn the walls of those once respectable department stores almost permanently. What can we expect from the customer service of once being famous for its customer service David Jones? During big sales campaigns the clothes are strewn all over the floor, the sales assistants would rather talk with each other instead of cleaning the store.

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In France, Italy, Spain, Germany, for example, the sales are state regulated, they start end of June (summer sales) and last for 6 weeks. The same goes for winter sales. After the sales stop, and they have to stop in accordance to the law, the items on sale, become immediately full price items. It would be illegal to sell them with the discount. During the period of sales, discounts very rarely go below 50%.

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Following our shopping giants erratic sale behaviour, our customer would naturally expect the same in one of the most affluent suburbs in Australia from the independent boutiques and operators.

“With luxury cars lining its streets, upmarket eateries and luxury brands filling the shopfronts Suburb X is, where the rich show off their wears. It’s a place to be seen. The 3,235 taxpaying residents in the this Sydney suburb make an average individual’s taxable income $141,544 for 2013 financial year.”

I had a customer who bought a bag only after I gave her 10% discount. She came back 4 times, she photographed the bag, she went back to Bondi Junction to find out whether they had similar bags or whether it was cheaper to buy from there. Since they did not have similar bags, she bought the bag from us. I asked her, why we are like this in Australia – our shopping behaviour is noticeable in any city of the world. The customer said something out of the blue – a) we don’t like to show off, b) we have to be sure the goods are not made in Bangladesh, c) we have different priorities.

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Bangladesh set me off clearly). I asked her, – if the bag, was indeed, made in Bangladesh, would you fly there to get it cheaper? Not an easy question to answer).

Our other customer was contemplating buying a dress already discounted and beautiful at the same time. She sent her photos to the whole family living in many parts in the world. She went to think to a café nearby and to have a lunch ($38 dollars) and to think. She finally bought the dress. Maybe the price of the lunch was the final persuasive blow.

I have a customer who would cry if 5% discount was not applied to her purchase. I asked her, why was it so upsetting. She told me that discount was a sign of respect and that David Jones and Myer had sales and discounts all the time.  And here we go…

Despite of many sales conducted by the big players, the last Christmas retail results were quite disappointing for the big players and for the retail sector in its entirety.

Of course, in Australia, we have 1.5 seasons, Hobart excluding…Of course, our dentists are charging us in diamonds, or in carats measurements of the diamonds, of course, our private schools cost us half a million dollars per child for the duration of their school education, of course, our housing is one of the most expensive in the world, of course, our cars attract the biggest taxes, unless they are made in China or Japan…Its all true, but, so many other countries have it much worse, and yet, people living there, would allocate much bigger part of their budget on fashion. Maybe we are not scrooges and discount seekers after all, maybe, we just do not like to dress?

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We toss our working clothes come the weekend and then we are dressed in the same old, same old as the weekend before? Would we eventually stop caring and start dressing only for Xmas parties, and three ceremonies in life like baptisms, weddings and funerals?

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I had a client who was in the middle of fighting a life threatening illness… She bought lots of clothes and jewellery. She told me, that she was saving up all her life and never spent money on herself, only on the family and the house. She said, it was one of her greatest regrets. Life deserved celebrating, she said.

I agree. Clothes can make us beautiful or can make us ugly, they can lift us up and drag us down, but it is in my only limited humble opinion…

‘Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.’ – Virginia Woolf

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Please note, my blog is a result of several years of research and it is based, sometimes, on fictitious characters and fictitious situations.

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