London town

Visiting London (as I just did; see previous entry) remains a complete delight: from the classic squares and buildings to the pleasures of meandering and willingly getting lost; to the politeness of Brits in general to the amusement of dealing with foreigners behind the counter in service-sector jobs, trying valiantly to mimic the good graces of their peers; to the tittering fun of remembering to use—and using correctly—indigenous terms like “quid” and “the tube” and “takeaway”; to the uniquely alien familiarity with the city’s pace and its trains and its maps and its taxis and its working environment, all so different, yet so similar; to, most importantly, my British friends, full of warmth and unfailing hospitality, whom above all other factors make me wish for return visits sooner than later, and whom despite the challenges of distance and infrequency are doubtless among my favorite people the world over.

So here’s to you, London town, and Mark and Arindam especially. I miss it already.

On the road again

I leave Manhattan Saturday for the first leg of a three-stop, two-week travel schedule. Destination: London, for Beauty and the Brand 2006, where I will be giving a presentation on leveraging the Internet to increase brand loyalty and sales.

If you’re attending the conference (or if you miss it) and would like a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, feel free to email me and I will gladly pass it along.

Local pricing and Petco

Chain retailers face a big decision when expanding into new markets: do they implement standard pricing or local pricing? Standard pricing is just that: a $58 shirt at Banana Republic is $58 whether it’s in New York, St. Louis or online. Local pricing allows for variances in market conditions, such as rent, traffic, competition, cost of living, etc.

Petco has chosen local pricing for its Manhattan stores. The result? Amy and I go out of our way to not shop there. And by “out of the way” I mean “drive to a pet store deep in New Jersey where poop bags are 55% less expensive than they are in Union Square.”

A basic pricing comparison:

Natural Balance Pet Food, 5 lb. bag

– At Whiskers in the East Village: $8.99

– Online at petco.com: $6.99

– At Petco Union Square: $9.99

Van Ness Grab Bags, 40 count

– At Petco (formerly NJ Pets), East Hanover, NJ: $2.99

– Online at petfooddirect.com: $3.08

– Online at petco.com: $5.99

– At Petco Union Square: $6.49

Frontline Plus, 3-month supply, small dogs

– From our veterinarian: $40.00

– Online at petco.com: $40.99

– At Petco Union Square: $62.99

Now, I live in a hot neighborhood in an expensive city, and I understand that Petco needs to pay the bills. I also know that my local Petco is constantly busy, which means the pet owners in my neighborhood are either less price sensitive than me or don’t comparison shop as much (probably both).

But what I really know is that Petco Union Square has product markup that exceeds 100% on some items. That’s just outrageous. Even my Food Emporium’s cereal, a notoriously expensive item in Manhattan, doesn’t cost twice as much as the Kellogg’s in my parents’ supermarkets (although it comes close).

End result? I don’t go to Petco much anymore. And long lines or no, that sort of reaction is something Petco’s new owners might want to consider.