I was just in Charlotte, NC for an extended long weekend that encompassed Black Friday and three thoughts stuck with me for the duration of my trip:

  1. Americans really know how to put on a sale.
  2. How does the U.S. stay in business?
  3. I’m getting fleeced by retailers at home.

I live just outside of Toronto and have a couple friends/co-workers that live in the states who continually comment on how expensive things are here. Living here you don’t notice because it’s the norm, but now I couldn’t agree more, especially after spending a stupid amount of time with my mouth wide open in the wine & beer section of a grocery store in Charlotte.

I cannot for the life of me understand why a bottle of Crown Royal, a CANADIAN rye whiskey, costs twice as much here as it does in the States. And how the hell can the Canadian government justify charging $36 for a 24 of Alexander Keiths (again, made in Canada), when 40 minutes from my house, in Buffalo, it’s $23.99 – AND IT’S AN IMPORT!? So let’s turn the tables – a case of Sam Adams Boston Lager in Buffalo runs about the same as Keiths $24, but here in Ontario where it is listed as an IMPORT, it’s $45. Cripes!

Nike Structure Triax

I'm making a run for the border

To the point of how can America stay in business, I am a runner and need new shoes. I went to my local Running Room and tried on a pair of $150 (pre tax) Nikes. Nice but pricey. I walked out of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Charlotte on Black Friday with the exact same pair of shoes for $48.69.

Black Friday or not, the regular price for the shoes was more than $70 less, add a $20 sale tag, plus a coupon for the weekend (not even tied into Black Friday), and I got me a new set of kicks for a steal. WTF?!

What kind of mark-up is that? What sort of import tariffs and taxes are Canadian retailers forced to pay in order to carry similar items in their stores? More to the point, why the hell is everything in the States so much cheaper? Volume discounts for retailers is one thing, but what if it’s a cross-border company that buys en masse to stock their shelves in both countries (Chapters, Best Buy, etc)?

Buying shoes (or any number of other items, for that matter) online just isn’t an option for me without first having tried the shoes (item) on – the whole “box of chocolates” thing – so shopping at the brick and mortar is a necessary first step…

I also wear glasses (yippee) and recently had a visit with a local optician, looked through their frames and was quoted $500+ for a new pair. Go online, the same pair is $210, lenses, coatings and shipping included. This scenario makes sense! The online store doesn’t have to worry about the brick and mortar overhead, the human capital costs, etc. But these exceptions don’t apply when you compare apples to apples, or storefront to storefront.

This is an issue we are facing at my current employer where we also sell to both Canadian and American clients (B2B) and are now revisiting our pricing and packaging strategies to target a different niche in our market. We don’t want to get burned by offering one person a better price than another because we know for a fact that someone somewhere will share this information to their peers and we’ll be up the creek.

But at the same time in order to appeal to this niche we need to take a different price/pkg approach… and this niche is on both sides of the border but is linked to the rest of our clientelle via word of mouth and industry contact. Sonofagun – so do we offer our product to one group at a lower rate or in a different package/configuration than the other just to tap this market niche, full well knowing that the new package is probably all the original purchaser wanted in the first place but wasn’t an option at the time of sale? How do we handle the potential flood of existing customers who will then want the base package because they feel it would save them money in the short term even though the product they have is functionally superior to the new package? Guess we’ll see soon enough…

For now, I don’t think I’m going to be buying anything soon on Canadian soil – sorry folks, but that’s the way it is. I just hope none of the Xmas gifts I’m going to pick up on Military Rd in Buffalo will need to be returned… Better idea, give a goat!

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