Frugal is the new black

Spurred by new competition, Canadian retailers are looking for ways to bring us less costly options.

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by Gail Vaz-Oxlade
November 6th, 2012

Online only.

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Did you hear that Holt Renfrew is joining the rush to win the hearts and wallets of the more frugal? Yup. It has announced plans to open up hr2, an “off-price” arm that will deliver less expensive options for cost-conscious consumers. “Tarjey”…err Target hasn’t even arrived yet and our Canadian retail market is already looking for ways to bring us less costly options.

There was a time when the names behind the brands were synonymous with both quality and the rarified. Handmade is history. Instead, family-owned brands like Fendi, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent have been gobbled up by conglomerates that have created more visibility and brand-awareness all in the name of profit.

When brands became mass-market products they made a killing selling the hoi  polloi the idea that they could mimic the lives of the truly wealthy by acquiring their brands. Sucker wannabes everywhere swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker.

Hand-crafted products are practically extinct. Most brand-name manufacturing takes place in large factories in places like China, right beside the mass-market label that sells for way less.

Did you know the average mark-up on a handbag is ten- to twelve-times the production cost. So if you’re planning to drop $900 on that oh-so-chic brand, grab your calculator, divide that $900 by 12 and you’ll see what you’re paying for $75 worth of materials and workmanship.

For a long time men and women alike believed that they could emulate the rich and famous by throwing serious money at retailers to buy the products that would elevate them to new heights. It seems consumers are finally smartening up. Hallelujah!

Joe Fresh is probably the best example of a brand that has made value shopping chic. Old Navy does a great job of combining sassy marketing with down-to-earth pricing. And that kind of pressure is making the old, staid brand-name sellers sit up and pay attention.

As brand-name houses like Holts brace for quality and price-conscious retailers like Target to enter the Canadian landscape, the penny has dropped. Only the most shallow and uneducated still think that the Prada that was is what they’re buying when they drop $1,800 for the brand name today. Smart consumers have wised up and know they have to judge quality for themselves, not by brand. And smart consumers also know that there’s real caché in getting a good product for a great price.

9 comments on “Frugal is the new black

  1. Brand names have been giving up quality to sell in discount stores like Wallmart ,$23.95 for Livis gives you jeans that have less stiching,thinner material but they buy in such quantity that every one makes money,the buying public only sees the price of the item ,not the quality.I buy Eddie Bauer on Boxing day at 50% off ,$35.00 a pair.But the pair I wear on my motorcycle ,Livis.

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  2. I've never been interested in buying "designer" anything but you still have to be careful when you buy cheap. Clothes shouldn't be disposable. I have never bought a Joe Fresh shirt that's made it through one season without shrinking out of shape or unravelling at the neckline.

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  3. This is true. I am guilty of buying brand name items, but I don't for a second believe they are worth more, or the quality is necessarily better. Of course there are still some brands that do offer better quality but there are very few left.
    I think its important when you can to support small and local business and designers. This supports your community, your country and you will more then likely be getting a better product, as their reputation is on the line, and closer to home.
    BTW check out my Jewelry. It's all handmade by myself, and made in Surrey BC :) (I know, I'm guilty of self promoting). Buy local this holiday season! http://www.contagiouscreationsjewelry.com

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  4. Buying cheaper can be better, but there needs to be a real change in the way we source labour and materials. The bad quality is due to sourcing for the cheapest possible price; which means more markup for the suppliers and retailers. I'd much prefer to pay a bit more to get better quality, but where are the brands that actually make good quality stuff? They are so far and few between.

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    • So true. Exactly what I was going to say.

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  5. Sorry if this post is going into the wrong thread but it is frugally minded and 'high fashion thinking' :) . I was wondering if you might do a showcase, perhaps even invite submissions for meals serving four.

    The unique component of this contest or collection would be that price and nutritional completeness are the determining factors. Many families are in the process of learning to cook on a budget and could seriously benefit from other's wisdom. I am hoping that we could get submissions from people of various cultures and dietary practices. Affordable, nutritious foods are in our grocery stores but we Canadians could really use a food nutrition and economics update!!

    Can a moneysense article or this blog be used to open that dialogue and price out some options so we can show some excellent examples about how to feed a family of four on "X$ of food per meal or less"?

    There could even be different features for specific meal types. The recipes don't have to be fancy. We just all want to have meals that we enjoy at the table and have money to lob at the RRSPs, mortgage, and RESPs when we're done. :)

    Leslie

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  6. Instead of buying several low quality and poorly design goods, I splurge on a piece or two at the most items and get a wear out of it until it's almost falling apart, which for me, a good ten yrs. of wearing it according to its season.

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  7. a lot of the public doesn't realize that the brands they once depended on are no longer owned by the same company. this needs to be shouted out. i work in retail & still hear people saying "this is a reliable brand of appliance, when the company actually no longer exists only the name.

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  8. Use what you have! Clean out your closet and if it doesn't fit get rid of it. Donate it, sell it or swap it with a friend. I don't need 40 pairs of jeans. 20 black tops. A clean non-cluttered closet is awesome.

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