I made a comment on my Facebook page while I was out shopping this weekend to remind myself to write about the relationship of price and value in clothing. I think those two are separate entities but are very closely related. You pay a certain price x for a piece of clothing that you believe has _______ value. I hope I can better elucidate below:
Before starting this blog, I was an online shopping n00b. After a few months of writing, talking to friends, and checking online retailers, I find it interesting that companies have such varied pricing on their merchandise. In-store prices seem ridiculous to me now, and I increasingly can’t imagine paying the full amount on anything nowadays when I know a coupon or a deal may just be on the horizon.
To deal with the crazy pricing schemes retailers like to play in-store/online, I’ve adopted the following shopping strategy:
- Before going in-store/online, determine set pieces I want to purchase. Rank by importance and urgency of need. Going on a trip somewhere colder next month? I’ll only look for jackets and shoes (as an example.)
- Do online research to find that item from a retailer with the best combination of price, free shipping, and a solid return/exchange program.
- Check for coupons, rewards programs, cashback deals (e.g. Ebates), if the item is available on Amazon Prime (free 2-day shipping), etc.
- If item is available in-store, check for fit, quality/construction, comfort. If item is online only, read product/fit reviews from others who’ve owned the item.
- Buy the item, make assessments. Return and research again if the item doesn’t meet spec.
It’s a lot more work than simply clicking “Buy” or heading to the store and grabbing something. Here’s what I think are the pros and cons of grab-n-go vs. researched shopping:
|Grab-n-go||Take home item immediately||May be distracted/tempted by other items|
|Thrill of the hunt/feeling triumphant at scoring a sale or deal in-store||Prices are “have it now” prices: you pay the markup to run the storefront, pay the employees’ wages, etc. Things may cost almost 4x what they cost online|
|Brick-and-mortar stores feel familiar and comfortable to people. Good salespeople can build a relationship with customers and establish brand loyalty based on customer service.||Limited stock/sizes especially for specialty sizing (e.g. Petites, Tall, Plus)|
|Immediate knowledge of feel, fit, quality of item|
|Online research||Quickly compare prices across retailers||No knowledge of fit if it’s an online only store–you’ll have to take a chance and believe their size chart|
|Access to online reviews by others who’ve owned the item||Sometimes shipping costs and taxes might make the item cost more than simply buying it in-store|
|If item is out-of-stock in-store there may be more inventory available online.||Long wait if item is backordered or shipping schedule is delayed|
|Time-intensive and possibly intimidating to online shopping beginners.|
|Return/exchange/refund policy varies wildly from large to small retailers.|
With such variance in online vs. in-store pricing, it makes me wonder how much is this shirt/shoe/jacket really supposed to cost? I understand manufacturers have costs to answer for, such as materials, labor, shipping, marketing, and store maintenance (and you can find an animated discussion about this very topic over at Well Spent.) In the end, I feel like today’s shopping is a roulette game where you spin the wheel and your luck will determine the price you pay at the store. Maybe you’ll find your size in THAT shirt at the store at the half-off rack. Great win! Or maybe you’ll track an item online for months and one day it simply reads “Out of Stock.” Too bad, should have ponied up at the full price.
For me the price I think is fair to pay boils down to the function or quality that I receive from the product. Those full price leather flats? I’ve made their cost back in the number of times they’ve been worn/proven indispensable to my look. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better–it’s what the garment or piece can do for you that makes it worth the price you pay for it. I’m willing to pay handsomely for style AS WELL as comfort, utility and fit–but if I can have all for a steal of a deal, I’m a happy camper.
What do you think? How do you resolve the price-value conundrum when you shop? By what parameters do you determine the “value” of clothing–or anything you buy?