Posted by: gaiusc | 12 January, 2009

Dishonesty & craveness: a day in the life of an Irish retailer

It’s been a while since I’ve been up north and I have never gone up there for the “shopping” despite Belfast being only an hour or two away on the motorway but after yesterday, I’m sorely tempted to find an excuse to go up there and fill the boot while I’m at it.

The reason for this sudden burst of unpatriotic feeling is a trip into Dublin city centre yesterday with the better half. We’ve all heard about the huge differences between the sterling prices and the euro prices being charged to consumers south of the border so it wasn’t any surprise to see that Irish euro “sale” prices are the same as the sterling standard retail price. What did surprise me was the lengths that some retailers go to in concealing the extent of the difference. Having stickers over the sterling price is old hat. All the better then if removing those stickers also tears off the sterling price. Some sterling prices were obscured with black markers. Wouldn’t it be more productive use of staff time to have them selling stuff rather than sitting down on a stool and defacing every single price tag in the shop with black marker?

The gold medal however goes to Wallis on Henry St who tore off a 1 cm by 1 cm section off the corner of every single price tag in the shop in an effort to hide the sterling price from shoppers. Firstly, with large white price tags, the effect is instantly noticeable. Secondly, making it so obvious that you’re trying to hide such basic information treats your customers like rascally scamps. Ms Gaius promptly turned on her heel and walked out of the place.

I do have sympathy for the workers who are going to lose their jobs with the collapse of the retail trade but the simple fact is that people don’t have money to spend anymore. The other problem is that too much stuff costs too much. This worked fine when we all had somebody else’s money to burn but the cheap credit tap has been turned off. Irish shopping retailers have to shoulder daft rents and clearly these need to decrease. Irish wages are also considerably higher than other EU countries and sadly, these will also be coming down due to a combination of job losses and wage cuts. However, there is also that intangible “because we’re worth it” factor to pricing in Irish. This needs to be chased out of the system like rats with bubonic plague. Until the Irish cost base returns to something resembling normality, this recession is only going to get worse.

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