New York. Saturday 22 November 2008. Eight o'clock in the morning. The queue at the entrance of the Soiffer Haskin premises is already long: a wait of two hours to attend a by-invitation-only sale ("sample sale") of Bulgari. The watches are advertized at -60% and the bags at -70%. In three days Bulgari will gross more than one million dollars and the stock will almost be sold out right from day one!
If you are in New York in February, Soiffer Haskin is organizing a Tourneau sale - excluding Rolex and Patek Philippe – discounts announced between -50% and -70% and a Dunhill sale.
If you wish to avoid the queues and long waits and you are a mouse-click expert, you can find by invitation only sales on the Internet offering discounts of at least as much: Gilt Group (Invitation Only Shopping - 36 hours of sale at -70 %) or Shopittome (which keeps you informed daily of discount sales of clothes in your favorite brand - in your size, of course!) in the USA ... and of course venteprivée.com in France. You'll find brand name products, but also apartments: in June 2008 Kaufman & Broad sold 52 lodgements (out of the 262 proposed). In 2007 Peugeot sold 92 cars with a 31% discount ...
The consumer has turned into an expert, thanks to the Internet: Wikipedia, Google, the proliferation of sites for cool hunting, consumers, price comparison (do you know Pricenoia.com "Pricenoia: a disorder characterized by the systematic verification of international sites when ordering from Amazon", which allows you to compare the price of the same article home-delivered, on the various Amazon sites?). Today the consumer knows what there is in the anti-wrinkle cream of your brand and if its ingredients are "risky" (go see www.cosmeticdatabase.com) AND with sites like Shopittome or Pricenoia he is aware of the best price at any given time.
This has three major consequences:
- He often trusts other consumers more than the sellers - we have entered the CtoC "Consumer-to-Consumer" era. This is a major upheaval and the major brands will have to take it into account. This will inevitably lead them to (finally) take an interest in Web 2.0 and design interactive sites where consumers have their say.
- Price is losing its significance: how can the consumer get an idea of the actual price of a product when carriers and hoteliers make "yield management" their tool - with the result that in the very same train/hotel/airplane, various rates are practiced; and when distributor brands, by piling up promotions, loyalty cards and other "X Tickets", totally obscure the real price of the product?
- The proliferation of distribution channels: alongside "traditional" channels have appeared all the "discount" channels - in both "rock-bottom" (rock-bottom discount stores, "sample sales", etc.) and "online" (ventesprivées.com, Gilt.com, etc.) – which only reinforce the consumer's impression that the products of a particular brand are accessible at "discount" prices if only one takes the trouble of searching and having a little patience.