A British Shop Once Lowered Its Prices To Less Than Zero
In 2011, a store called Sanders Supermarket was selling baked beans at negative 2 pence per can. If you bought a can, it cost nothing, and they'd actually pay YOU 2 pence. It was the final stage of a crazy battle between different stores to reduce prices, a battle today remembered as The Bean Wars.
Low prices grab buyers. If you can sell enough stuff, you can make more money by charging less. That's how megastores like Walmart manage to keep prices down: The low prices attract so many customers that so long as Walmart makes even a tiny bit of money from each item, they end up with a fortune because they sell so much.
Stores can also end up with a fortune even if they make no money at all on an item. Take Costco rotisserie chickens. These chickens cost $4.99 each, and have for over a decade, which is actually less than the price of a whole chicken raw in the same supermarket. Add in the costs of cooking, and Costco loses money on each rotisserie chicken they sell. But that's fine, because they're just using the chickens to get people into the store, and people are sure to buy other stuff once they're there.
Products like those rotisserie chickens are called loss leaders, and a couple times in the UK, stores really went nuts turning basic staples like baked beans and bread into loss leaders, selling them for just pennies. One Bean War happened in the mid '90s, with Tesco selling each tin of beans for 7 pence, losing money on every sale. But when another war struck in 2011, Sanders Supermarket near the town of Weston went further than you'd think possible.
They reduced the price to negative 2 pence. So they'd take 2 pence off your bill if you bought a can of beans, and they'd simply give you two real pennies if that's all you bought.
There was a catch, though: Customers could buy just one tin each. Even the other stores, now selling beans for 3 pence a can, limited how many you could buy. So, you could say these were just publicity stunts from all involved. But then you could say that about every bit of marketing ever.
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Top image: Phil and Pam Gradwell