A forecast: by 1966, the discount houses will have 80% of department store trade.
YOUR MONEY AND THE “DISCOUNT” WAR
Every week a new so-called discount store starts somewhere in Canada
The discounters say they sell almost everything 10% to 40% cheaper than “regular” stores.
The big department stores say they’ll sell anything worth buying as cheaply as the discounters or anybody else. Thousands of small retailers are joining the battle.
The result is some genuine bargains and a welter of advertising claims for udiscounted” gray goods that never had a firm price in the first place. They may, or may not, be worth even their cut-rate prices.
This is a report on where the retail price struggle stands today and what will probably come next, by Eric Hutton and a team of Maclean’s reporters
YOUR DOLLAR AND MINE have become the target in the fiercest and most contused battle ever fought among Canadian shopkeepers.
The reason, as anyone who reads or listens knows by now, is the mushrooming of so-called discount department stores. Their owners claim that by cutting the costs of doing business they can sell most of the things that middleand low-income people use and wear at prices ten to forty percent less than “regular” retailers. They predict that within five years most Canadians will be doing eighty percent of their everyday shopping in discount stores.
The established retailers reply that discounters have invented no magic formula to change the proposition that people get pretty much what they pay for. They point out that discounting is nothing new (Timothy Eaton opened his department store in 1869 with a “discount sale”). They maintain that competition, and the basic awareness of you, the shopper, of the value of what you buy, will prevent the discounters from becoming anything more sensational than just another phase in retail selling.
A DISCOUNT FROM WHAT?
What is the truth from the consumer's viewpoint? What is the discount explosion likely to do to your buying habits — and budget? A team of Maclean’s writers has taken a close look at what’s happening in discounting and what probably lies ahead for the consumer. Here are some things that people who spend their money in either old or new stores should know-:
The word “discount” doesn’t mean anything more than the time-worn “cut-rate” or "bargain,” for this reason: apart from brand-name goods, what you buy in discount stores usually doesn't have a familiar established price on which a “discount” can be based. In fact, discounters don't use that word when advertising specific items. They put the onus on the shopper by urging him to compare their offerings with similar articles at a higher price. The inference is that the comparison will be in the discounter's favor.
That may or may not be the case. Comparison has become just about impossible for the shopper because other retailers who don't call themselves discounters, from the T. Eaton Co. to corner drug and variety stores, jumped into the discount act almost as soon as the first discount stores opened. (In the U. S. the oldline retailers ignored the early discounters, with the result that in ten years the latter have increased from a handful to 3,000 stores in number, and have seized what they themselves estimate variously at from fifteen to thirty percent of the retail business in appliances, toiletries, lower-priced clothing, and housewares.)
Today when you go shopping in Canadian cities where discounters have gained a foothold (Toronto, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver) you have no way of knowing whether you will find a better buy at a discount house, department store or neighborhood shop. For example, anyone in Metropolitan Toronto can pick up cigarettes in certain drugstores for $2.99 a carton, compared with $3.09 at the discounters, $3.29 at supermarkets,
and the hard-to-find regular price of $3.60. One woman who happily bought “bargain” water glasses at a discount store for eleven cents each found the same glasses in Simpson's for nine cents. On a recent Saturday, Towers discount stores were selling barbecued chickens at $1.11; Loblaws and Dominion supermarkets had them for $1.09, the A&P for 99 cents. (A&P pricing puzzles the discounters. Leonard Goldstein, head of GEM discount stores, outlining his plans to undersell supermarkets in his grocery section, added: “Except A&P, maybe.
I don't think anybody can meet A&P prices — certainly they're a mystery to us.”)
EVEN A RADIO STATION RETAILS—RADIOS
Discounting and its repercussions are moving so fast in so many directions that it may have entered an entirely new phase by the time you read this. Perhaps as important (and even more confusing) to the shopper as the price war touched off by the invasion of the discounters is the revolution in “who sells what.”
Drugstores, long the subject of jokes about selling lawn mow'ers and laundry tubs in addition to drugs, have nowadded chinaware, knitting wool and even tea — the daringly nameless kind at a discount of twenty-six cents for a 100-bag tin. Supermarkets are crowding out their groceries with aisles of hardware, clothing and sporting goods. A Toronto radio station is selling — of all things — radios, at an alleged forty percent discount. Department stores and discount houses are selling gasoline, gasoline stations are selling cut-rate barbecues, cameras and footballs,
CONTINUED ON PAGE 64
But 70% of them will merge or fail. Overleaf, a laboratory looks at what they sell
What shoppers are really getting for their money
The professional testers found trash and quality in discount houses and trash and quality in department stores. Their advice isn't new. It's, “Buyer beware"
ONE RESULT of discount selling is that customers more and more are buying merchandise by price alone. This can be a treacherous guide to a bargain. if it means buying goods of bad quality, workmanship and durability.
To find out what these Canadians arc really getting for their money, Maclean’s went to discount and department stores, and bought comparable, unbranded merchandise in the same price range. The purchases included men’s work pants and ladies’ silk and nylon slips, tufted hand towels, wallets, barbecue utensils, sponges, canvas travel bags, men’s shirts and a kiddie car.
These products, carrying their price tags but no identification of the store they came from, were turned over to the Consumers Research Laboratories Ltd. Dr. Hugh l.awford, the lab's technical director, and his stall tested each article for materials, construction and use.
l.awford and his staff aren't economists. Their evaluations are based on scientific knowledge of materials and unscientific knowledge of prices.
The tests show the shopper’s slogans, "You get what you pay for,” and "Buyer beware.” are valid for department and discount stores. Neither has a monopoly on quality or on junk.
Both kinds of store, for instance, sell cheap, poor quality wrenches. The department store’s wrench, priced at $1.25, buckles under even moderate pressure. The discount store’s wrench at SI.87 is better but not good enough for even a skilled week-end craftsman.
A fourteen-cent discount-store can opener has such poor metal plating that it began to flake off the first time it was used. Over a period of time corrosion from its blade could contaminate food inside tins it was used to open. A ninety-eight-cent “air-corps truck” with sharp metal edges was judged unsafe for children. This time, the product came from a department store.
After buying a canvas bag for $4.77 at a discount store, the Maclean’s shopper tried to match it in a department store. The only bag in the same price range was selling for $4.50. A clerk tried to tell his customer she wasn’t getting a bargain.
He was right. The lab reported, "the particular model examined couldn’t be considered satisfactory at any price.” The discount-store bag was no better.
Other articles—slips, towels, men's shirts, wallets, barbecue utensils, and the kiddie car—were good buys. And Maclean’s did get a bona fide bargain, a bunting bag priced at $2.67 at a discount store. It was sturdily constructed, quality material. You couldn’t buy it anywhere else for less than $5.98.
DISCOUNT STORE $4.44
DEPARTMENT STORE $4.84
Both pairs of shoes underwent continuous wear and abrasion tests for three days. The discount-
store pair, with a standard shoe last, and the department - store pair with a sandal - type last, both stood up satisfactorily to the testing.
DISCOUNT STORE 77c
“Subjected to only superficial material tests, but within its price range, this would be a very satisfactory and durable play toy.”
DEPARTMENT STORE 98c
“Shows inherent weakness of fabrication. If this sample is representative, it might be in some degree hazardous as a toy.”
DISCOUNT STORE S1.87
“Quite satisfactory within its price range . . . but its design precludes satisfactory use by a skilled craftsman.”
DEPARTMENT STORE S1.25
“This wrench failed under simple tests. It cannot be recommended as a practical tool even at its attractive price.”
Men’s work pants DISCOUNT STORE S3.47
DEPARTMENT STORE $4.95
Both pairs of pants were washed numerous times in hot water and household detergents and dried in warm air. Both shrank \3A” in the legs and IVi”
around the waist during the first wash but in subsequent washings no further shrinkage was detected. Both were color-fast and securely sewn.
DISCOUNT STORE 14c
"The metal plating didn't adhere and in operation immediately flaked off. The flaking could contaminate a can’s contents.”
DEPARTMENT STORE 29c
“With respect to price, composition and construction, this is a very good household utensil.”
DISCOUNT STORE 97c
“This pigskin wallet must be considered to represent fair value, but can’t be expected to provide any degree of durability.”
DEPARTMENT STORE 98c
A black leather wallet from a department store was picked for comparison. It wouldn't last, either, the lab reported.
DISCOUNT STORE $2.67
“The bag is well constructed, fabricated and designed with quality material and is considered to be an excellent bargain.”
Maclean’s shopper couldn’t duplicate this bargain at department stores, where prices started at $5.98. A child’s dressing gown, at $4.98. was adequate.
DISCOUNT STORE AND DEPARTMENT STORES S4.44
Prices were identical. This was one of the few branded articles tested. Results: the kiddie car is well constructed. The metal front steering assembly
withstood severe tests. However, the bolts used to fasten the steering assembly to the seat didn’t remain secure — a minor fault easily remedied.
THE “DISCOUNT” WAR
continued from page 19
More than a hundred advertisers blared “discount” while half a dozen said, “but we offer quality”
and some are installing coin machines to sell groceries. One discount chain offers college educations to the sons and daughters of regular customers.
The price war may grow cold and leave the consumer just where he was in highpriced I960, but it seems certain that he'll never again live in a world of ‘orderly retailing" in which hat stores sold only hats and shoe stores sold only shoes.
On the surface, the Canadian discount battle has been rather sedately fought up to now, mainly by multipage newspaper advertisements—-which makes newspapers the first big winners, although the papers’ advertising staffs complain that they are being driven crazy by between - edition changes demanded by big advertisers as they jockey to meet their competitors’ price changes. One advertiser who warned, "Our prices are calculated three days before the appearance of this ad, so they may be obsolete by the time you read them.” was making the understatement of the week.
In one October issue of the Toronto Star more than a hundred advertisers of retail wares from diamonds to boats to bird cages offered customers "discounts" or their equivalent. Even the CNR and CPR used the word "discount" in announcing reduced fares. In contrast, half a dozen advertisements were based on the quality of the goods offered without mention of price. Only Morgan's among the department stores did not overstress price, and only the Furniture Guild admitted "fair and consistent prices compatible with quality.” (One woman declared, after an exhaustive and exhausting tour of discount houses and department stores. "The days of bargain hunting are over. From now on shoppers arc going to have to hunt hard if it’s quality they want.”
“Discount has become a nasty, meaningless word like 'togetherness,’ ” said Alan Stollery, who with his father runs a sixty-one-year-old haberdashery at the corner of Yonge and Bloor Stieets in Toronto. " The discounters and those who follow their line are betting that Canadians can be sold on price alone. We have managed to achieve the largest gross sales per square foot of store space in North America by giving customers personal service and offering them the widest range of goods of the best quality and lowest price that competition and fair profit will allow. The discounters do none of those things—and I'm willing to bet that they're wrong."
Dupuis Frères, Montreal's big FrenchC'anadian department store, is making that bet too. Dupuis officials said they were ready to swatch to a discount, self-serve operation if their customers wanted it. but there w'as evidence they didn't. In 1952 a strike forced Dupuis to go selfserve. French-Canadian shoppers complained bitterly. They preferred to discuss their purchases with clerks who could give information and advice-—and if necessary be argued and gossiped with.
baton's, by far Canada’s largest retailer, fired the loudest salvo to date in the battle with the discounters for the customer’s favor, with the flat announcement: "We will not be undersold." Simpson's, the second largest department stoic chain, joined in with its paraphrase. "You pay no more at Simpson’s.”
These challenges followed, chronologically at any rate, two spectacular announcements by discounters:
Towers, the first discount chain to set up shop in Canada, revealed that it had estimated its initial year’s business at $5,000,000, had had to revise that figure
upward several times during the year, and had ended up by grossing $12,000,000.
Sayvette, second Canadian discount chain, boasted that the week it opened its first store in Thorncliffe Plaza, outside Toronto, 250.000 people crowded into the plaza, compared with a weekly average of 20,000 previously.
When Eaton’s dusted off its old "We will not be undersold” slogan and displayed it on large signs inside all the entrances of its stores, it apparently meant what it said. In the old days the slogan simply meant that Eaton’s would meet the prices of other retailers it considered legitimate competitors—Simpson’s, Hudson’s Bay and the like. Today the statement means "We will not be undersold—by anybody.”
Shoppers are telling wondrous tales of having their word accepted by Eaton's clerks, without question, that articles can be obtained elsewhere at lower prices. A man walking down Toronto's Yonge Street noticed in the window of Cole’s book and stationery store a paper-staple remover priced at fifty cents.
"By the time I remembered I needed one I was nearer to Eaton’s than Cole's.” he related. "1 went into Eaton’s and found the same gadget priced at a dollar. I told the clerk 'I can get that at Cole's for half a dollar.’ He went away without a word and came back in two minutes with my bill made out for fifty cents — and a new price tag for all identical staple removers in stock.” Another man obtained an onthe-spot reduction on a gallon of paint from $11 to $7.20. A small electric drill was knocked down from $14.95 to $12.95 on another customer's assurance that he could obtain the same drill elsewhere at the lower price.
Competition here «as just too tough
In all cases, not only was the individual shopper’s bill reduced, but the lower prices became Eaton's prices for all shoppers. In other words. Eaton's refusal to be undersold apparently doesn’t apply only to individual shoppers who complain.
Eaton officials say that normally they check claims of lower competitive prices before lowering their own prices, but in some cases supervisors may give clerks the power to lower prices when discrepancies are claimed by customers. Some salesmen have entered the discount fight so enthusiastically that they’ve been cutting prices on anything they thought too expensive. Eaton's recently caught up with a clerk who admitted he was reducing prices on his own initiative "just for fun."
The discounters concede that the willingness of the department stores—particularly Eaton's—to meet their prices is rough countercompetition. But it is a known risk—five years ago Korvette, one of the largest U. S. discount chains, investigated the possibility of expanding into Canada anti decided that "the competition was too tough."
Despite this, since the first Towers Marts Ltd. store opened in Toronto a year ago. new discount chains have been coming into existence at a rate that makes it difficult to keep track of them. The present roster includes Sayvette, lowers. Miracle Marts. GEM (a "membership" store open to government employees and members of nonprofit organizations). Erederick Department Stores. Shoppers City Ltd., Lee's Discount City, Eood City (first of the food discounters). Woolco Department Stores. Woolworth’s answer to the discounters, and many others. The discounters’ own estimate is that there wall be three hundred discount stores in Canada in five years and that customers will spend $ 1,500.000.000 in them. This happens to be a few million dollars more than
Canadians spent in all department stores last year.
The discounters’ confidence that they can meet the competition of the old-established department stores is based on the contention that those stores’ decision to meet discount prices is more harmful to themselves than to the discounters.
"Department stores need higher markups than we do." said Lee Orenstein. head of Lee's Discount City, which opened the first of seven Toronto district stores in Oakville recently. "With their expensive locations, large staffs, high executive
salaries, pension plans and delivery service. they’ll lose money if they try to meet our prices."
Are the department stores going into the red in their battle with the discounters? Not in over-all operation, for this reason: big department stores like Eaton's and Simpson’s stock an estimated 125.000 separate product items; discounters offer about a tenth as many. T he department stores can probably afford to fight a price war that matches all of their opposition's forces w ith only ten percent of their own.
What do Canadian consumers think
about the discount explosion? The Canadian Association of Consumers hopes to poll its members with a view to forming a policy. “We’re looking into this discount trend very, very closely,” said Mrs. A. E. Gillies. Ontario Branch president. "There's no use saying it’s a good or a bad thing. It's here to stay and we must face it. It will be interesting and challenging, to say the least. Consumers have shown they like one-stop, self-serve shopping. When supermarkets came along everybody said women would never lug those heavy sacks of groceries—it would be like going back
The tricky tools of the retail hucksters: fake list prices, false comparative prices, and the big bait
to the time when we carted baskets on our heads. But women carry them happily."
Mrs. Giilics warned, though, that the spreading discount trend can “further confuse an already bewildered consumer.” and advised careful, selective shopping for known brands of merchandise which, an informal check by the Ontario branch of the organization showed, were available at department and discount stores at sub-
stantially reduced prices. “The consumer gets little consideration." she added. "Very definitely there are attempts to deceive.
I here seems to be a decided lack of integrity underlying the whole concept of merchandising today, from deceptive packaging by manufacturers to ’comparative value' claims by retailers that the consumer has no way of checking."
The Better Business Bureau has much
the same reservations. “T he public should be served with honest values and the truth told about what is being offered,” said S. C. Bowen, general manager of the Toronto Better Business Bureau. “Advertisers should avoid all tricky devices and schemes such as deceitful trade-in allowances, fictitious list prices, false and exaggerated comparative prices and bait advertising.”
What do the people over whom the discount war is being fought—the typical Canadian shoppers—think of it all? Shirley Mair, of Maclean’s editorial staff, talked to one hundred people, mostly women, and made this summarized report:
For the moment, at least, the individual consumer remains somewhat confused, no longer sure of where his dollar will buy the most. The only fact apparent is that the battle between the discounters and older retailers has brought prices down in many cases, and knocked the manufacturers’ "suggested retail price” into obsolescence in others.
Thirty-nine-cent Scotch tape is selling for thirty-four cents: Silicone
ironing pads, usually $1.49, are going for $1.27. A gallon of Presione antifreeze normally sells for $2.98; at Sayvette in Toronto, it sells for $2.47. (Honest F.d. whose free-wheeling, personally owned store has been discounting in Toronto for years and who scorns the new discounters as "too concerned with frills to offer real bargains,” seemed to prove his point by offering Prestone that same day at 99 cents).
One rule: avoid everything unlabeled
A keen shopper can nab any number of brand-name bargains both at the discount stores and the establish ed department stores that are lighting them. Many voices are trying to tell Canadians that shopping paradise is half-a-mile away; just as many consumers are wondering if they want to make the trip. There is definitely a wariness on the part of cautious Canadians to accept discounting—or any price slashing—because it carries with it the suspicion of poor quality goods, of seconds or rejects. Nine out of ten of the people I talked to fretted over future downgrading in the quality of goods, which they believed the discount stores would bring about. Over and over again people said, "You get what you pay for.” or “Junk's expensive at any price."
Maintenance of the quality of nationally advertised brand names would help the consumer solve part of his shopping dilemma. But in the gray world of merchandise with unfamiliar labels or products that bear no label at all. the customer is liable to get less than he bargained for. (One professional comparison shopper advises people to avoid anything without a label. If it hasn't a label, it’s obvious that no one wants to take responsibility for it. The same professional shopper thinks people should take merchandise with unfamiliar labels out of heat-sealed Polyethelene
bags and examine the stuff firsthand before deciding to buy.)
Even after careful examination of articles, there is no foolproof way of judging durability. Who’s to say. just by looking at it. that a four-dollar girdle won't last three times as long as a two-dollar one? Is it worth buying poor-quality children's clothing if the clothes are to be passed down from child to child? How does the consumer know which garden, workshop and kitchen tools will stand up?
I heard complaints that the sevenor ten-day limit set by some discounters as the time during which goods could be returned for refunds wasn’t long enough for many articles to show signs of poor material or workmanship.
But make no mistake, the whole business of discounting has become a conversation piece. In Toronto now it's a social asset to be fortified by at least one shopping anecdote, and it’s no longer taboo for a lady to drop a word about prices over her afternoon tea cup. Camaraderie is replacing the social nicety of keeping price a strict secret between the shopper and the
shopkeeper. The new clannishness is the result of a public suspicion that the claims and counterclaims of merchants in the present retailing upheaval might not be plotted exclusively in the interests of the consumer. Such gimmicks as "loss leader" items designed to lure customers into the stores don't sit well with the average shopper, who only has about $4.300 a year after taxes to spread over the myriad of goods and services he requires.
Because of this growing dubiousness about retailers’ claims, some consumers arc accepting the opinions and experiences of their friends, rather than trying to keep up with the daily flow of retail information published in newspaper ads and stuffed into mailboxes. Since retailers are constantly revising their prices to meet their competitors, it is almost impossible for a consumer with only a limited amount of time to spend on shopping to know where he II get the best price.
A few weeks ago a Toronto discounter had a brand-name canvas travel bag on sale for $4.77. The same bag was in Eaton's for the suggested retail price of $5.95. Over in Simpson's it was going for just under $4.50. Even if a shopper could take the time to drive his car around to make these comparisons, he would be wasting the price difference on the gas. For a store that price-tags thousands of items, it's impossible to keep up with the current lowest prices, even when the store makes it a policy to try. W. O. Hallawell, manager of the comparison shoppers department at Eaton’s in Toronto, believes that in future much of the comparative price shopping will be left up to the consumers.
Eventually the Canadian discount-
er will probably dispel many of the current prejudices toward his operation. Ten years ago the discounter was the mistrusted renegade of retailing in the U. S. Today American surveys show that half of all the consumers in the U. S. are shopping at a discount store at least once a year. Even the relative handful of Canadians who have had a chance to visit discount stores have concluded they aren't the bogies they're made out to be.
What does a shrewd buyer look for in
discount stores? If you have been shopping at stores that sell at "regular" prices —and there are still some of them—the most obvious, provable bargains are familiar. widely advertised items like toothpaste and other toiletries, film, drug sundries and all the hundreds of other items that fill the shelves of drug and variety stores. They have known quality, established price, and the discount stores sell them for several cents less. (So do many other retailers but that is not the point.)
"But." says David Gilbert, national general manager of the Retail Merchants'
Association of Canada, whose members’ customers are the avowed target of the discounters. "if you buy only those items you are not playing the discounters’ game. They want you to buy their unbranded—or unknown-branded—goods that make up the bulk of their stock and on which they make the most profit.”
What about major brand-name items, from shirts to electric shavers, radios to refrigerators? The discounters sell them, and frequently at a large discount under manufacturers' "suggested prices." Actually. the struggle between brand-name
manufacturers and discounters is the biggest “inside” issue of the current price war. It has been largely hidden from the public, but its outcome is of great significance in consumers' future shopping habits and in the country’s secondary-industry pattern. The issue is this:
Many brand-name manufacturers refuse to supply their products to discounters. The latter maintain that they have a right to sell any product at any profit they see fit. They are confident that they offer such a large volume that manufacturers will be forced to sell to them or lose more business than they can afford.
“When the discount houses put old-line retailers out of business." said Lee Orenstein of Lee’s Discount Cities, “who will thé brand-name manufacturers sell to then? We went through this reluctance on the part of U. S. manufacturers in the early days of discounting there, but in time most of them have come around and are glad to sell to us. The Canadian subsidiaries of U. S. companies are more
willing to sell to us than all-Canadian companies, but in the end we’ll have them all.”
(On the other hand, Herbert Greif, general merchandise manager of Grand Way Discount Centers in the U. S., recently said seventy percent of today’s discounters will merge or collapse within five years.)
The holdout brand-name manufacturers
deny that the discounters represent a mass market—for the time being anyway—for those top-grade products that are known and trusted by the public. They maintain that the discounters are only interested in getting small quantities of brand-name items on their counters, with two objectives: first, to create a “quality image” for the store, and second, to provide attractive loss leaders to lure buyers into the stores. “Brand-name goods are valuable to discounters because they have what a lot of the rest of his stock hasn’t got—a known value in the eyes of the public." said one manufacturer. "When a customer sees a famous appliance on a discount store counter marked down from, say, $17.95 to $9.95. he may get the impression that other goods in the store are equally good bargains—indeed, he is meant to get that impression.”
But the use of their products to cozen customers is not the principal reason why brand-name manufacturers are withholding their wares from the discounters. It is a
matter of self-defense. “Here's the case we want to put before the public,” said Don Prentice, general manager, marketing, of Philips Appliances Ltd. "In the first place, we know that our suggested retail prices are not out of line. We know it because in today’s competitive market no manufacturer can force his product on you at his own price. When a discounter sells at twenty or thirty percent under the manufacturer’s suggested price, he's not giving you all that the maker put into the product —he's leaving out all that the dealer contributes as part of the sale—demonstration. service and assurance of satisfaction.
"Worse, the discounter damages the value of the product for his own selfish ends. One discount leads to a competitor’s bigger discount until the value of the product is ruined in the public’s mind, becomes of no further use to the discounter. and is dropped in favor of some other brand-name ‘football.’ Long before that happens, though, independent dealers who have been selling you the product for years find they can no longer afford to sell it. and they drop it too. The manufacturer finds himself with a tarnished brand name that he may have spent years of effort and large sums of money to establish.”
The struggle for your custom between the discounters who need brand-name goods, and the manufacturers who don’t want to supply them, has resulted in the only hand-to-hand fighting of the discount war. Many discounters “bootleg" brandname products from other retailers. Ben Rosenberg, head of the Towers chain, says he buys from other retailers at from two to four percent above their invoice price. "Then," he says, “I discount these goods extra heavily as a lesson to the manufacturer for refusing to supply us.”
Some manufacturers counter with direct action. A dress manufacturer who learned that some of his goods were in a discount store sent women employees armed with razor blades to snip his labels surreptitiously from the dresses. One day recently three men entered a lowers store and steered shopping carts through two and a half acres of milling bargain hunters to a stack of shirts marked “regular $4 for $2.95.” They piled all three dozen shirts into their carts and paid for them at different checkout counters. They were employees of the manufacturer, one of Canada’s largest shirtmakers.
The discount war. like all wars, must come to an end some day. Nobody, of course, can know the outcome. But. if the pattern in the U. S. is a guide, this is what a recent survey there found: "Leading
discounters have begun to improve the quality of their goods and to increase services, thus closing the gap between department and discount stores. I he result: a new kind of department store, designed to meet increasing customer demand for discount prices and at the same time retain some of the traditional services that shoppers like."
David Gilbert, who speaks for independent merchants, sees an interesting possibility: the war could end without
major casualties on either side, because the public will probably spend more money on retail goods and less on other things, as a result of the tremendous emphasis on this type of buying arising from increased advertising and public interest in the discount war.
In this case, which could be no more than wishful thinking, there’d simply be less money for other things—housing, travel, entertainment, luxury foods. Even the yearly rise in liquor sales might slow down. Gilbert thinks. In which case the discounters would have achieved what other reformers have never yet been able to accomplish. ★