Thank you for a great first year

By the|G|™ Used under the Creative Commons Attribution license

It feels like an appropriate moment, i.e., Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., to mention that this autumn I passed the one-year mark writing The Contrast Principle.

It is especially timely because one of the most heartfelt reflections I have about the experience is how much I appreciate the time readers have spent with the blog.

As airlines like to acknowledge that they “know you have your choice of carriers,” I understand how many things — whether online, on your phone or in the non-digital world for that matter — vie for your attention each day. I also know how many of us feel like we have less and less free time.

So at this time of thanks I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your readership.

Other reflections from the first year (or 14 months, to be precise)….

I’ve enjoyed the process of writing the blog: from experiencing the spark of an idea to thinking through the topic, performing needed research, writing, proofreading and the satisfaction of pushing the “publish” button.

Admittedly I haven’t posted as often as I’d have liked (see the comment above about lack of time). Or even as often as ideas have struck me — I don’t know how many topics I’ve scribbled down but haven’t yet turned into posts. However, each time I have posted it’s been accompanied by a sense of accomplishment.

Adding to my thanks above, I am also extremely grateful for all the responses I’ve received. Thank you to everyone who has commented on post topics — whether on the blog itself, via the Contact email, or in person — or who have “liked” or shared posts.

Lastly, I’m thankful that this blog has been a gateway to connecting with both new people and old friends. I’ve received emails and blog-related LinkedIn connection requests from people as far away as Asia and as close by as downtown L.A.

I’m looking forward to another year of The Contrast Principle and hope you’ll continue to join me.

– Josh Cole, 11/28/13

Mark it up, price it down

Sale standeeMark it up and price it down.

That retail practice is alive and well. Thriving actually, according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal (The Dirty Secret of Black Friday ‘Discounts’) that’s a great read for anyone planning to do some shopping Thanksgiving weekend.

It’s an interesting article about common retail pricing strategies, including how most deals are actually “a carefully engineered illusion.”

It also goes a long way in explaining why the Banana Republic near my house has a “Save 30%” or “Save 40% today!” standee by the front door seemingly every weekend.

This data really jumped out at me:

“The number of deals offered by 31 major department store and apparel retailers increased 63% between 2009 to 2012, and the average discount jumped to 36% from 25%, according to, a website that tracks online coupons.

Over the same period, the gross margins of the same retailers—the difference between what they paid for goods and the price at which they sold them—were flat at 27.9%, according to FactSet. The holidays barely made a dent, with margins dipping to 27.8% in the fourth quarter of 2012 from 28% in the third quarter of that year.”

Not to take all the fun out of holiday shopping, but the article highlights the relevance of trying to determine true bargains (e.g., loss leader discounts) from illusory deals.

Shoppers are already wary of paying full retail prices. After reading this article, you may find yourself even more so.

Speaking of retail practices and holiday shopping, I’d like to share a book recommendation: Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.  It’s one of my favorites. If you or someone on your gift list enjoys marketing and/or business books, it’s a well-written and interesting look at shopping that’s based on his research as a retail consultant.

Do you have any favorite marketing books to recommend? It’d be great to hear. Please share in the comments or via the contact form. (Or just send it to me as a holiday gift. Haha, just kidding).