When less costs more. A plea to Debenhams and other retailers to stop.

When it comes to retail, I'd class myself as a savvy shopper, and it would seem that being wise with the pennies is pretty en vogue at the moment. Its cool to shop around, price compare and use your your mobile to get the best voucher codes. 

But, having a little one, and working three days a week means that I don't really 'hit the shops' very often. Saturdays are much more important family time/ cleaning the house/ DIY time than traipsing round The Oracle in Reading and facing the endless mission of finding a lift as we can't use the escalators with a push chair. (See, you young single folk have no idea of the freedom you have! You can hop on and off an escalator whenever you want and take a direct route from A to B without scooting round to find the nearest lift. Am-az-ing!)

Anyway, as well as being a dedicated bargain hunter, I've also worked as a Marketing Manager looking after retail Point of Sale which means I'm pretty clued up on when you can shout about a sale or a discount and when you can't. And whats fair to the customer and what isn't.

But today Debenhams totally outfoxed me.

Its clear they want to lure the shoppers in, but the windows and shop floors had hanging posters and banners that were competing with each other. Green discount tags battled it out with red discount tags. Within a few feet I was being shouted at with offers of 10%, 20%, 'Half Price on all dresses' and 'Up to half price in every department'.

2 different styles of design, 3 different price savings.

Spot the 'Up to'? Its pretty tiny on a ceiling banner.

Put simply, its confusing.

Debenhams should take note, if you're shouting about EVERYTHING then really its just a lot of noise. Give the customer a clear message. I'm sure that for the designers that work with Debenhams this is their worst nightmare. They're used to being all about quality, not double discounts on hanger tags and window vinyls.

And yet Debenhams seem to continuously play this game. I'm signed up to their emails and there seems a constant 'blue cross sale', Super Saturday, Fabulous Friday or extra 10% off already discounted items. They've become the DFS of the High Street Fashion world with an almost permanent sale. If I miss a promotional sale one week I know for sure that I'll get another chance in the next few weeks.

Yep, A Facebook group actually exists for this!

But here's the particularly silly bit from todays' visit. 

Today the 'Half Price dresses from Designers' sign caught my eye. At first I realised I was stood in Red Herring but then had to question if they were a designer or not (not obvious if you don't shop there often). But I guessed it wasn't so I picked up a dress from Star by Julien Macdonald, figured as that was a person's name it must be a designer at Debenhams and should therefore be in the sale. I tried it on, tried to get a sales assistant to find me another size, waited for ages, and rather comically, another customer offered to go and get one for me! Bless the festive cheer from other shoppers.

I liked the dress on the right. At £42, this would be a bargain at £21 (half price)

Serious face, trying to focus the camera. (!) I'm concentrating.

Anyway, I liked the dress so went to pay for it, except when it was scanned in it was full price. The reason? The sales assistant's response was 'Ah, well you see this is a tunic and not a dress?'

Oh. Well you see I didn't see.

Its a pretty hard line to draw when people wear dresses with leggings and tunics with leggings and even tunics as dresses. I saw some much shorter dresses than the 'tunic' I tried on in some of the other (admittedly, more 'youth' departments!) In fact, a quick look on their website tonight brings up up 9 tunics when I click on Julien Macdonald dresses. So its not particularly clear cut. Even Wikipedia is vague about the difference between the two:

'A tunic is any of several types of garment for the body, usually simple in style, reaching from the shoulders to a length somewhere between the hips and the ankles.' (Wikipedia)

Here it is again. Longer than a top, shorter than some dresses, but merchandised alongside other dresses. 

Sadly there isn't a victorious end to this story, I didn't have a comedy showdown with the sales assistant debating how ridiculous it was that a dress that was slightly shorter than the one next to it would cost me twice as much. Admittedly it would have made a quality blog post, but it might also have made my other half disown me, especially seeing as yesterday was his birthday! Instead, I used the best powers that you can in retail: I just walked away. Debenhams lost my custom today and probably will do in the future too.

I've always been told that 'all feedback is a gift' and I think that as shoppers we should use our voice to feedback more often. I don't want to see any more boarded up shops on the high street, or anymore Pound Shops jumping into empty spaces in Shopping Centres.  

So this post is my feedback to Debenhams and other retailers out there. 

Wouldn't it be great to be able to walk into a shop and see simple pricing instead of retailers playing silly games and maths challenges with us?

Give us clear value and honest pricing.

We don't need to be shouted at with savings and cheeky 'was/ now' reductions. We know that you play with us, selling higher one week and discounting the next. Just be really proud of what you sell, price it fairly and discount honestly instead of bombarding us with Fabulous Fridays and Super Saturdays.  

Meanwhile, I'm off to congratulate myself on managing to find what was probably the ONE item in Debenhams that wasn't covered by a discount of any kind. Takes real shopping skill that does!

What do you think? Are you frustrated by the way shops discount things?

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