25 May 2009

The price is right? Wrong!

According to Oscar Wilde's Lord Darlington, in 'Lady Windermere's Fan', a cynic is a man that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. If that is true, there are an awful lot of cynics out there buying new domestic appliances.

At a recent press European press conference hosted by white goods manufacturers the BSH Group, it was revealed that Britain has the lowest number of consumers who consider energy efficiency as the number one purchase criterion when it comes to buying a new refrigerator, dishwasher, or washing machine. Just 32% considered running costs important, compared with over 55% in the Netherlands and 65% in Switzerland.

So, what do we Brits consider the most important criteria? Over 55% went for price, compared with just under 35% in Switzerland and less than 30% in Italy.

It's easy to scoff and say: "well that's the UK buyer for you". At least it is if you are one of the few UK journalists in a room full of very smug fellow journalists from Holland, Germany, Sweden... Well anywhere else in Europe actually.

But is Jo Public really to blame for being so price fixated? When did you last go past one of the superstores or multi-nationals and not see a price-driven promotion plastered all over the windows?

There's a builders merchant cum retailer at the end of my road that is constantly advertising kitchens at '75% off' or giving a 'free' dishwasher away with a kitchen over a certain value.

Of course the consumer focuses on price, what else is ever advertised? And that is why they really do think they can buy a good quality, three-piece bathroom for under £200.

Price is about the only fact the spotty-faced youth in my local appliance superstore can recall without looking like a rabbit stuck in the headlights of a car. Ask him if the refrigerator is 'frost-free' and he has to find a supervisor for the answer.

Ask either of them if it's A++ energy rated, and you might as well speak to them both in Klingon for all the good it will do. (Come to think of it, the spotty-faced one is probably fluent in Klingon.)

So-called marketing 'experts' have made price the only criteria to consider when it comes to buying almost everything, and now we are paying the price for all this 'expertise'.

We have to get back to offering value for money. We have to re-educate consumers into understanding that you cannot have really cheap prices and high quality.

Is there a place for DIY or appliance superstores? Of course! Somebody has to sell entry-level products, but let's have a degree of honest pricing too.

The only problem I have with a £1500 kitchen is not the price, but the marketing of the product that leads a gullible public into thinking they have bought a kitchen worth £15,000 at a knockdown price.

That's not value for money, it's cynicism of the highest order, what ever Oscar would have called it.

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