Yesterday I brought a new tube of toothpaste. Yes, I know – not very interesting.

Anyhow, as I left Waitrose and walked past Boots, I noticed that they are offering toothpaste on a special offer where you buy two tubes and get a third free.

It got me thinking.

When I worked in retail and have control over the profit/loss, we tended to consider the day-2-day purchases as covering the running costs of the shop, and anything extra we managed to sell to the customer was the profit margin.

So, to mange the business, I needed people to come in reguarly and often so that I could maximise our chances to sell an extra item (or 5) to the customer.

How does that model get affected by the BOGOF model of buy one, get one free?

Well, customers end up “bulk buying” and don’t come back into the store for ages – so where is the footfall and impulse shopping going?

I feel that shops offering BOGOFs would be far better off by offering cash discounts on items. Some customers will still bulk purchase, but I would bet that the majority would still pick up just the one item – and return later for the second one (which might now be full price).

A tube of toothpaste lasts quite a long time – I guess maybe 6 weeks(?) so the idea of trying to load me up with nearly four months worth of toothpaste in a single purchase seems frankly overkill.

A second factor is brand loyalty – if I don’t need to visit the Boots for another four months, will I be used to going into Boots for toiletries thanks to the familiarity of regular visits – or will I come to the shopping mode in 4 months time and have probably forgotten where I made my initial purchase?

So, can we restudy the BOGOFs not only in the immediate impact on sales while the offer is available, but also on the footfall and impulse sales decline as those customers no longer have a need to return to the store for a longer period of time.

As an aside, it reminded me of an incident last year where I went in to pick up some vitamin pills. Yes, I know they are next to worthless, but as my doctor piles me up with pills, taking a vitamin pill makes me feel like I have some control over my pill taking as at least one of them was my decision. Anyhow – when I went to pay for the pills, the sales girl told me that if I brought a second tub, I would get a third free. Now, I don’t like bulk buying – and certainly not what would have been a staggering 9 months worth of vitamin pills just to save a few quid.

What I recall though, was the sales girls shock that I was not interested in something that was “free” – she really didn’t understand that if I didn’t want something, making it free wouldn’t automatically make me desire it.

Oh well.

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