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Sunday
Dec132009

Setting the Pricing Bar

This is not meant to be a gambit towards a larger conversation on competition, but I'd like for most of you to know something about the pricing of spirits (how both it and I work in context).  The assignation of price is most difficult with spirits because it is truly the only distinguishment a retailer can have within this realm - we all can and must buy from the same set of distributors.  Wine, however, is a different ballgame because we can travel and abroad, find small producers, import them, and have exclusivity on their product.  Therefore the chief accomplishment lies in discovery rather than pricing because we are free from any adversary.  Because there are are no unknown whisky distilleries waiting to be discovered, and we couldn't import them if there were, pricing and selection become the criterion - yet, again any store has access to the exact same product as I.  It comes down to how much room you have and how low are you willing to go.  Another factor that I have been enlightened to in my short career as spirits buyer is that being the first retailer to feature a hot new product has its drawbacks - namely, that my competition will find out how successful these spirits are, then merely purchase the same goods and hawk them for a dollar or two less, hoping that you'll head that way in the name of savings.  When we are not the low price leader on something (and unfortunately we cannot always be) it bothers me.  Severely, because I'm not going to play the pricing war game where we keep lowering it meanwhile infuriating the customers who just paid what had been the lowest price.  What happens however is that I get access to many new items before anyone else.  As I try to google them nationally to get an idea of how other retailers are pricing them, in many cases K&L is the first to carry some products and we set the bar.  Then the music hits and the limboing starts and everyone trys to squeeze under it.  Please be aware that we will more often than not match pricing on spirits because of this and if we are seriously missing the competitive mark with our sticker price, I expect you all to let me know. 

-David Driscoll

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