It's a rather sneaky way of doing business, but getting into the heads of customers and making them think they've gotten a better deal than they actually have is something retailers have been doing for decades. Rather than putting a fixed price on an item, they'll put an original price--often jacked up to twice what they're really selling it for--as well as a sale price. Finding a cute top for $40 is much more of a steal when you find it marked down to $15 or $20, right?
That's what retailers are hoping you'll think, and the practice is called "anchoring", meaning your perception of the item's value is set right away. Seeing it marked down to half or less than half off means you're more likely to buy it, even if you might not need it, and in today's economic downturn, that's the last thing shoppers want to do.
Stores are catching on to what their customers want, however, and J.C. Penney is one of them. Part of a new overhaul for their entire system includes pricing items at what they actually are--"Everyday Prices"--which will not be reduced in weekly sales. Instead, the store will conduct month-long sales on certain items, and clearance sales will be on the first and third Friday of every month. Every item will have a new simplified tag to keep customers from getting confused, and that includes setting prices at a flat number instead of ending in .99.
J.C. Penney saw a sharp decline in sales over the past several months compared to their competitors, and Ron Johnson, C.E.O., admits he knows why.
“Our stores are tired; they haven’t been updated," he said. "So customers ignored us 99 percent of the time. At some point, you, as a brand, look desperate if you have to market that much.”