What The Bear Will Market

25 09 2011

Each year in early September, you can count on my being online behind a closed office door, nervously trying to scoop up concert tickets for Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This year was no different (I got 11th row floor). My reason for grabbing tickets early? Simple. Because if I don’t get ’em while they’re hot, the scalpers will.

And then I’d be paying $200 a pop.

Scalpers have a storied history of having a first row seat at the concert of Supply and Demand. Whenever supply is dwarfed by demand, there must be a market adjustment. The price goes up…and stays up as long as people are willing to pay the inflated price.

Ticket brokers have sophisticated software that can bust through even the most complicated online buying procedure. The result is that, each year when I buy TSO tickets, I have to jump through ever more hoops just to get to the check-out stand. Enter your username and password again. Now type this Captcha (good luck there). What’s your shoe size?

Wait. Alright, 9 1/2 D.

As much as we hate to admit it, we have grown accustomed to concert and sporting event tickets being scalped. Never mind the ethics. Supply and demand is in our DNA, right? We have bought into the free market idea in this nation. Arenas can only hold a fixed number of people, and it is not unusual for demand to far outstrip supply. While we wince at the thought of paying more than face value for anything, apparently we get over it. Still, you will find me online the first Thursday of September next year as well buying my TSO tickets. Because I don’t want to be one of the ones paying the higher price.

But what if this notion of supply and demand applied to things you buy in a retail store? What if merchandise were so limited, and so highly sought after, that buyers scooped it up and put it on eBay? That’s exactly what happened recently when Target introduced Missoni clothing. Target is the master of cheap chic, and Italian fashion-forward Missoni was just the product line it needed to catapult into the zeitgeist.

And while you won’t find me in a bidding war for a Missoni dress, I will say that I don’t have a problem with this. Sure, there are lots of disappointed shoppers. Heck, the Target website even crashed this week when these items went live. As long as Target can handle the negative fallout and drive the PR race car to the finish line, it stands to gain a ton of cachet. Buzz. Coolness points.

Because Walmart doesn’t carry Missoni. They don’t even know who the Missonis are. And because Target has an opportunity to cement itself as the top dog of affordable yet distinctive merchandise…a far cry above Walmart, yet better (and cheaper) than mid-level competitors like Kohl’s and JCP.

True, Target is still at risk here, because if they successfully build Missoni hype and fail to deliver enough of the goods, people are going to walk. No, run away. It’s a tough balancing act. It’s also possible that in-store fights could occur, kind of like when Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage in Christmases past. or like every Black Friday when 3000 people are fighting over the one cheap television at Best Buy.

Social critics will no doubt howl about this latest collision at the corner of Supply and Demand, but that’s how the market works. Sure, it means that some people will not experience the concert or see the Super Bowl. And it means that some women won’t be wearing that Missoni dress this winter.

Unless they want to pony up a few extra bucks.

As for me, I can’t wait to see TSO again. There’s something to be said for being extremely fast with a computer mouse.

Dr “Although I Would Entertain Offers…” Gerlich


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