Utterly and shamelessly crass, yes: Every consumer knows it.

But who can resist its allure?  Especially in the post-holiday season of clearance and close-out sales?

Few can resist, of course.  Even a calloused un-shopper like me occasionally succumbs to the excitement struck by endless rows of racks, counters, and shelves plastered with signs exclaiming  “CLEARANCE!”

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Hark! The herald clearance signs proclaim “Spend!”

So how smart was my clearance shopping venture yesterday?  I brought home four pieces of snazzy athletic wear, for which I paid an average of $9.99 each.

(Time out: Whatever is the psycho-magic of $9.99 as a sale price?  An entire penny less than $10—-What savings!)

All four pieces showed their original retail value, ranging from 32.50 to 49.95.   The full retail value of the purchase in an earlier pre-discount season, in other words, was about $150.  I paid less than a third of that amount!

So who’s the smarter at the end of the day?  The retailer captured pennies on the retail dollar by persuading me to hand over forty-something dollars for four pieces of clothing that I don’t need. On the surface, I saved about $90!  But truthfully, neither my happiness nor my want, much less my need, depends on my having those goods.

I am sure the retailer is pleased to have my forty-something dollars in exchange for my taking those items off of the store’s cumbersome, post-season inventory.  But if I “saved” $90, does the retailer feel like he “lost” $90?

I doubt it.  If I saved $90, my bank account balance shows $45 less.  And if the retailer lost $90, his ledger is also $45 better off as he profits from the $45 cash flow garnered by my visit to his clearance sale.

Yep, the year-end clearance sale is free enterprise at its zaniest perfection.  Whether it’s win-win or lose-lose for consumers or retailers hardly matters.  I kind of think its both.

 

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