Value for money or money for old rope?

Honestly, just when are you going to learn, you half-witted, dumb-brained nincompoops? Flogging utter garbage for next to nowt is actually destroying our businesses.

Any fool, as you well know, can pile it high and sell it cheap – but when the shelves are bare, all you`ve done is devalued our trade.

The masses now know you can buy an 800g white sliced loaf from a discounter for as little as 50p. We all know that this is a ‘loss leader’, but so long have we been encouraging custom in this way that we have spoiled the consumer into thinking that this is the real price of bread.

This section of the buying public can be quite vocal. They stroll into shops and tell everybody who will listen that cheaper bread can be bought at the local discounter. There is no escaping it either, with the less brave sneaking around behind the scenes on social media sites, spreading their testament and in doing so, damaging the trade of some honest bakers.

Recently, I overheard a conversation in our office that stuck with me. One of my colleagues had gone back home for the weekend and bought a potato and meat pie and a sausage roll from a local pie manufacturer for just over a pound. Amazing value on the face of it, but the story ain’t over yet.  

“Did you eat them both?” I asked. “No, I threw most of it away,” he said. I gave him a sidelong glance, and said: “Well, that was an expensive meal!” He just replied: “You pay for what you get, I suppose…”

Never a truer word spoken. To my mind, ‘expensive’ is simply relative to value for money. A pork pie from Harrod’s may well set you back a fair bit more than a pound, but I doubt the customer would be throwing much more than a wrapper away. Something is expensive when you don`t get value for money, so in effect, those pies were extortionate.

As the saying goes, ‘stupid is as stupid does’ and it leaves us with a dilemma. You can beat your own path and make quality products for a good price while still focusing on value for money and get a fair return for your labours. You can also educate your customers on how to appreciate the differences of quality. Or do you follow the path of making for a price, where inevitably, quality – and margins – will fall? Because that price becomes cheaper and cheaper every year and once there will come a point where there is no return and you’re doomed!

In 2008 the Daily Mail reported that 23 butchers a month were closing. Meanwhile in 2012, British Baker said there was a small resurgence in bakers’ shops thanks to bakery programmes such as the Great British Bake Off.

To put it in perspective, there are still 18 retails shops a closing a day (The Guardian, 22 April 2014). So isn’t it time that shoppers went local?

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