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The Umbrella Just an Accessory? Think Again

by:Mayer     2020-06-02
While most of us buy our umbrellas from an end cap display in a department store, the best place to buy one is in a dedicated umbrella store. An umbrella is not just functional protective gear. Some umbrellas are sophisticated pieces of engineering; some are works of art; and some posses a level of quality that will elevate the importance of our umbrella in our overall wardrobe. Department stores sell umbrellas, but they're not the best place to shop for high end ones. This is because the business model of a department store is such that accessory items like an umbrella tend to be sold for volume rather than for quality. And because of the pricing system used in department stores, those that do stock higher quality umbrellas tend to charge too much for them. It's reasonably easy for a customer to determine whether a specific item at a department store is a good value or not because of how this business model works. Simply, the closer an item is to the 'center' of the wardrobe, the more likely it is to be a good value. Core items like shirts, pants, dresses, and shoes tend to be reasonably priced at department stores, but accessories (like umbrellas) tend to have a higher margin. Because a department store handles such a large inventory, margin expectations tend to be set by product type rather than by individual product. Essentially, this means that the store expects the same margin on an umbrella that wholesales for $30 that it expects on an umbrella that wholesales for $2. If that margin is 500% (common for accessories) the cheap umbrella is an okay deal, but the up-market model is overpriced. In general, specialty boutiques operate on a different model, resulting in a different pricing scheme. Boutiques tend to be more expensive across the board because they don't have the ability to trim margins on core items. They also have fewer sales, so they have to make more from each. On the other hand, they specialize in a product type, so they tend to price items based on quality and value rather than on the broader criteria used by department stores. It's pretty easy for customers to figure out whether an item in a specialty boutique is a good value or not, just as it is in a department store. You just use a different measurement. Boutiques tend to have higher margins on cheap items and lower margins on expensive items. The umbrella that wholesales for $30 might only cost $100 in a specialty store, making it a better value. But a cheap umbrella that wholesales for $2 might easily cost $20 in the boutique. A more important feature of the specialty store, especially when you're looking for a quality umbrella, is that specialty retailers focus on a single product type. That means they know it inside and out, and they tend to deliver a much more interesting and varied selection of products than what you would find in a department store. That means you're more likely to find something that fits your taste and your budget. We all own an umbrella for its function, but the right kind of umbrella can also make an outfit. You won't find that kind of quality and sophistication in a department store, but you can have a surprisingly good time browsing through an umbrella store. Even if you don't buy anything, the products on display are worth a look..
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