Some Socks For Christmas

It’s coming up to that time of year again….

So what  would you like for Christmas?” you ask. “Oh, I don’t  know,” they reply, half-interested “There’s nothing I want really Just get me a couple of  pairs of socks.

“Is that all?” you say, expressing outward concern that it’s not nearly enough, but inwardly delighted  that the problem will be solved with a tenner and a trip to M&S.

“Yep, that will be fine, I’m going shooting soon and I want something to keep my feet warm.”

Now until this morning, that wouldn’t have set any alarm bells ringing. But until this morning, I hadn’t heard a story about a friend of a friend who went shopping for socks in London at the weekend.

He was in the Purdey shop in Mayfair perusing their guns and decided to pick up a couple of pairs of socks while he was there. He didn’t look at the price – they were socks after all, how much could they be? He was about to find out. The assistant scanned in the barcodes, put the socks in a bag and smiled…”That will be £550 sir.”

When I first heard this story I thought it was an exaggeration, or a case of crossed wires. Not so. Visit the Purdey website and you will indeed find several pairs of shooting socks available at £275 a pair. And they’re not even the most expensive. One pair of hand knitted socks are offered at £395. It almost makes the £275 pairs look a bit of a bargain, doesn’t it?

Now I know I’m not exactly skint,  but I can’t imagine paying that sort of money for a pair of socks no matter how rich I was. What’s more, I don’t really know who does – other that tourists who are too embarrassed to admit that they just got seriously out of their depth – but the important thing is that there are people that do. They have wealth, and an attitude to spending money, which is completely outside of the understanding and experience of ‘normal’ folk.

But here’s what’s important….’normal’ folk are making a great deal of money supplying these people with what they want. And there are ‘£275 sock people’ in just about every market. They’re the people who want the best of the best of the best, and are prepared to pay for it. Yes they could buy a watch for a fiver but they’d rather have one that does the same job for £20,000…yes they could buy a regular set of golf clubs for £300 but they’d rather spend ten or twenty times the amount on a set tailor made for them using exotic materials. Yes they could buy an excellent bottle of wine in a restaurant for £50, but they’d rather buy something more exclusive covered in dust for £10,000.

I don’t know what the profit margin is on a pair of £275 socks is, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that it’s  probably ‘a lot’.  Most people’s natural instinct  when they go in to any business is to try to compete on price. This is usually a road to ruin. Larger competitors with more resources will always be able to undercut you. So what I’m suggesting you do is this…

Instead of trying to be the cheapest, seek out opportunities to be the best.  Offer a premium priced product. Seek out a position at the top of the market, not at the bottom. Look to do things better, rather than cheaper.

Don’t complain about the obscene excesses of the rich….capitalise on them!

8 thoughts on “Some Socks For Christmas

  1. chris arnold

    Couldn’t agree more, John. Forever telling estate agencies to charge more, even though they are in a race to the bottom on fees. Ironically, our job is to get the homeowners the best estate agency and this involves negotiating the fees, but as long as they’re the best agency, we’re happy for our vendors to pay a higher fee. Win/win/win for the vendor, the estate agency and ourselves.
    P.s really enjoyed your books

  2. Jim Fursdon

    Hi John,

    Yes, excellent story and an nteresting look at human excesses.

    This example is extreme of course – for the extremely wealthy. However, throughout life I have generally found it cheapest to pay a little more.

    £250 Hotpoint washing machine: Service call/breakdown every few weeks then discard burnt out at eighteen months. OR, Buy one Miele for £550 with a ten year guarantee! Problem…. the guarantee was a sales con. We haven’t had to call on it even once in eleven years and the thing still purrs like a Rolls Royce every day! It might even wash the golfer’s socks without pilling them.

  3. Mike Cruise

    Interesting comments John and not so unusual either. Take a look at some of the stuff currently dropping out of the w/e Telegraph and no doubt the rest including some tabloids too.
    John Lewis Christmas booklet lists some very expensive gift suggestions.
    Some other company I can’t remember the name of produces a similar booklet with items like Dent leather driving gloves with string backs…remember those. I think these were being offered along with a number of high quality items from yesteryear all very expensive and rather exclusive which has always attracted a certain type of person hasn’t it?

  4. Peter Hool

    How about $15m for The Red Hot Fantasy Bra and Panties from lingerie maker Victoria’s Secret (ok so they were set with 1,300 stones, including 300 carats of Thai rubies).

    Just a little something for ‘er indoors!!


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