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The voice of the brand strategy consultancy, The Portnoy Group Inc.

The Brand Man Speaks is a dialogue about the consuming world in which we live and a guide to successfully navigating it. The goal is to educate people and companies about branding, the most powerful yet misunderstood business tool.

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Investigation show Macys, Kohls and JC Penney's "sales" offers may not be legitmate

NBC has released an investigation that shows that some top US retailers are essentially "cheating" Americans with less than honest sales offerings.

At issue are "sales" prices reflecting discounts off "full retail/regular pricing" and whether there is some unethical, misleading retailing going on. The investigation said the activity may not be illegal (retail fair trade pricing laws give the retailers some wiggle room) but it certainly smacks of scam like tactics.

Products were shown with what appeared to be notable discounts off full retail/regular prices. However, in a number of the cases those discounted prices had been the price for far longer than a legitimate sale period or the full retail price was never the price used to offer the product for sale in the first place. The overall intent appears to make something look like a sale that isn't one.

Consumers are impulse oriented when shopping especially if they see something that appears to be a bargain. Retailers know this as this is the kind of information they gather from various market research studies they conduct all year round. I used to conduct focus groups on retail subjects and know retailers are always looking to find ways to generate impulse purchases and capture as much of the consumers' dollar as possible once they are in-store.

What is surprising is that with all the resources consumers have today with mobile access to a world of pricing information prior to purchase, one would think they would behave smarter and be able to assess the real bargain sales from the pretend ones. I for one rarely buy something because it is one sale theses days without first checking on my smartphone for prices for the item online and at brick and mortar locations elsewhere first. In most cases today, I find in-store retail prices generally higher than online prices therefore driving my business to sites like Amazon and Zappos rather than buying at a retail store.

It is unclear if this report with generate more scrutiny from Attorney Generals offices nationwide to pursue action against retailers for "misleading" consumers with what I would call faulty pricing.

The bottom line is an old saying, "an educated consumer is the best customer".

Watching out for you everyday.




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