How Retailers Fight Inflation with out Elevating Costs


Inflation is on the rise. Hordes of outlets are elevating costs and irritating buyers with out exploring options.

Earlier than rising costs, an organization ought to contemplate its enterprise mannequin, product combine, market place, and total productiveness.

Ultimately, a value improve may be obligatory. But when it could actually discover new alternatives, a enterprise might buck the inflationary pattern and even achieve revenue.


Costs for every little thing look like on the rise within the U.S. Final week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics launched its Producer Worth Index for February 2022, reporting wholesale costs had moved up 0.8% for the month. For the previous 12 months, wholesale costs have shot up 10%.

Supplies, completed items, and even labor prices are rising, and companies are beginning to react.

The Nationwide Federation of Impartial Enterprise, a free-market advocacy group, reported that 79% of American retailers surveyed final month had elevated costs. Worth hikes aren’t shocking however might be pointless.

Oded Koenigsberg, deputy dean and a professor of selling at London Enterprise Faculty, described the dilemma succinctly in a Harvard Enterprise Assessment article.

“The traditional response to inflation is to pick certainly one of three unattractive choices. Managers can upset their clients by elevating costs, upset their buyers by slicing margins, or upset virtually everybody by slicing corners to chop prices,” Koenigsberg wrote.

Alternate options

What if retailers didn’t have to spice up costs to stay worthwhile?

Koenigsberg is certainly one of many who consider the issue of inflation could symbolize a chance for companies to enhance.

Modify the enterprise mannequin. Not all ecommerce or retail enterprise fashions are equal within the face of rising inflation. The present market may be a good time to increase or replace how a given enterprise earns a revenue.

For instance, direct-to-consumer model Italic dietary supplements ecommerce gross sales with membership income. It makes use of the identical factories because the spendy manufacturers to fabricate attire and residential items however sells them for much less. And it affords a $60 per 12 months membership for unique entry and help.

One other instance is FloorFound, a recommerce enterprise. The corporate collects outsized returns comparable to furnishings from different retailers. It then inspects these objects and resells them, serving to the unique retailer scale back prices and get well income.

Flaviar is a liquor discovery subscription. It shares spirits through themed “tasting containers” and supplies subscribers entry to allotted stock and co-created whiskeys, gins, and vodkas.

For that matter, contemplate Shopify. The corporate began when a few guys tried to create an ecommerce snowboarding store and now makes round $3 billion in annual income.

Home page of Flaviar showing three small liquor bottles

Flaviar sells subscriptions to “tasting containers” of whiskeys, gins, and vodkas.

Replace the product providing. Ask if your online business is promoting the precise merchandise for the present, inflation-infected market and contemplate updates that don’t increase shopper costs.

Retailers may reduce underperforming SKUs, add non-public label merchandise, bundle objects so as to add worth, or scale back portions to maintain costs secure — suppose an 8-ounce bundle as a substitute of a ten ounce.

Modify market place. Right here the purpose may be to shift from one market to a different.

Think about a small DTC start-up model for example. Fiber Sports activities began by making an injection-molded armor for hockey stakes however pivoted to industrial footwear to discover a a lot bigger market.

Improve productiveness. Boosting productiveness will be a substitute for elevating costs and doesn’t essentially imply slicing corners.

A rise in productiveness might consequence from automation, advertising optimization, hiring distant staff, or utilizing a third-party success service to place merchandise nearer to clients.

Costs Could Nonetheless Rise

Regardless of its finest efforts, an organization should still have to boost costs resulting from inflation. However right here, too, might be a chance.

Think about combining the value improve with one of many methods above.

For instance, Koenigsberg, the advertising professor, famous some companies that had competed on value might have undervalued merchandise. These firms might increase the value and the status of the product, promoting at one thing close to full worth.


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