Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti, his article on the Globe and Mail’s website today really hits home.
A more valuable currency should make the things we buy from other countries cheaper. But, over the past five years, as the value of the Canadian dollar has appreciated against the American dollar, that has not been what’s happened. Canadian retailers have not lowered their prices — instead, they have used the rising dollar to gain excessive profits at the expense of consumers and the whole economy.
[full story at the Globe and Mail]
And right now, this failure to reflect the strong Canadian dollar is really obvious.
However, things have changed the last few years. More and more of us are buying a lot of our consumer and small business goods online.
When there is such a great disparity between the price at retail in Canada, and the same article in the US dollars, it’s up to us to act. And guess what ? The internet is there once again to level the playing field in a big way. Not only can you comparison shop, you can buy online and in a lot of cases, get shipping for free.
But the good retailers, the smart retailers, are actually going out of their way to treat their customers differently. A couple of weeks ago, Craig Strong at Oakwood Broadcast in Winnipeg emailed me (and I’m assuming all their customers, I’m not that special) to point out a number of items that are substantially cheaper, due to the strong dollar. And he says, more price drops to come. Not only is that good business, that’s good customer relations, and he’ll continue to get my loyalty even though he’s 2 provinces away from me.
And today, I went into Steveston Marine to ask them about the price on an Andersen winch for my sail boat. Their web site lists the winch at 699.00 Canadian.
But wait, when I check West Marine’s web site, the same winch is 447.99 U.S.
Hmmm. Even with shipping, I am way ahead buying it from a US company.
And guess what ? Steveston Marine proved how good a retailer they are and matched the price – and in so doing made the sale. And, I suspect, are still are making a decent profit.
So, what to do ? Well, do your homework. It’s hard to argue with a 250.00 difference in price. Or a 25 dollar difference for that matter. Good retailers will do what they can – keep in mind that some of them are getting squeezed by their suppliers.
I’d much rather buy local if I can, so I try to get my local suppliers to at least match pricee (or get close enough). If they won’t budge, take your money and go to where the deal is. FedEx and the internet have made ‘mail order’ cool again.
With some products, its a no-brainer. You know what it is and ordering ‘from away’ is painless.
And some things will surprise you.
I buy all my photo-printing inkjet paper direct from Epson online. I originally went there because I could never get the paper I wanted here at retail. Sometimes Staples would have it, other times not, and the same with London Drugs. What I discovered with Epson is that the paper price is the same or lower than at the local store, and Epson ships for free. Not only that, but ordering paper and ink from them online is way easier than actually finding it at my local Staples. So, I get the stock I want, delivered to my door in a couple of days.
At the end of the day, its up to us to make sure we get a fair deal. If Canadian retailers are guilty, as Ken Georgetti claims, of “greed, gouging and bad citizenship” then us consumers are somewhat complicit because we’ve let them get away with it. Getting the best price is work and takes a bit of advance planning. But I can assure you, you’ll discover who’s a great retailer really quickly when you start asking them to ‘adjust’ their prices.