How Your Lunch Bill Can Earn You Add-On Sales

With the retail empire of a tabloid villain figure being broken up by avaricious new players, I recall a tale often recounted from long ago reality telly to solution salesreps.

Billionaire clothing retailer, Philip Green, helped out in one long-forgotten episode of The Apprentice.

Contestants were tasked with raising sales in one particular merchandising area of (his BHS) women’s fashion floor. They manned the tills, walked the floor and generally made a hash of selling to the general public. Much schadenfreude ensues as they resort to American-style hectoring of passers-by until they practically beg for business.

Then in walks Mr Green. He decides to test the mettle of the loudest lady. He tauntingly waves £100 in crisp readies. And tells her to find him an ideal outfit for this amount, pronto.

Disaster. She fumbles badly. Doesn’t know which tops go with which bottoms. And gets confused about the combined costings.

And there’s a terrific business steer here.

I wondered at the time why retailers always have shop dummy displays with either no prices shown, or simply list each individual item’s tag.

Wasn’t it George Davis’s Next that changed the UK game with their ‘lifestyle’ matchings back in the early 80s? Have we not progressed? Why do shops not have say, a trio of mannequins with a single big sign, “each complete outfit for under £50“? Or is my retail naivety exposed by such an idea…?

Whichever, there does appear a natural limit to what people want to pay.

There’s a clear case for this ceiling as formed by one of two motives;

not paying more than an amount you consider apt (in ‘package’ terms), or

paying only based on comparison with some other (abstractly related) items’ worth

And this brings me to the lunch bill.

I was in a delightful deli the other day when a woman complained about the price of a salad. Specifically, she objected to salmon replacing chicken having to cost more. She was out of line.

The exasperated owner confided in me that her price was not only fair, but at a tiny margin considering such a wonderful plate. The reason for this, was that she’d found an upper lock on what people would pay for lunch.

No matter how amazing the food, diners apparently veer away from forking out on lunch. Not just as much as they would for supper, but up to a degree less dependent on what they feel a lunch bill should not randomly exceed anyway.

So in the majority of minds, they eye a predetermined amount. Based on a combination of comparison (to an evening meal out against which lunch must be cheaper rather than in relation to alternate lunch options) and self-imposed budget (lunch should only say, cost a tenner, tops).

I’m also reminded of my early cubrep days. An old boss used to tell me that purchase smoothness could often be gauged on how the amount fared when set against someone’s personal mortgage.

So, taking all this evidence from a sales-pro viewpoint (as distinct from that of a behavioural economist!) then there are two ways we could make the life of our prospect easier.

  1. Find something that is not perfectly comparable to your wares (as lunch differs from dinner) that would be more expensive, and position your price lower (whilst still making a margin of course, but by dint of not having all the gloss of the alternate).
  2. Create some kind of package (like a lifestyle combo of shirt, pants and shoes) that comes in at what you think the top range of buyer expectations would be for total spend, and make sure there is something quirky that sets this apart.

Well. I appreciate, easier said than done. But if you get the psychology right, then greater sales well be picked up around the edges I’m sure.

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