Product markup: small town vs big city

I buy fabric at the Birmingham(UK)rag market. It’s cheap, and it’s close to home.

A month ago I bought a few meters of cheap plaid fabric. It was 2£ a meter cheap. In fact when I asked for it the guy hinted that it wasn’t that good. I made a skirt out of some of it. Turned out great, fit well, but after a couple of wears the material started fraying at the pleats. I knew at that point it was some sort of viscose blend, as all cheap viscose tends to pull away at the seams. I assume it has to do with the thread count.

Anyway, my husband said I needed to start buying better material. So with that in mind we went to London this last weekend and hit up the fabric shops while we were there. First place we go there are, coincidentally, the exact same two plaid fabrics laying side by side for 35£ a meter!!

I thought that it couldn’t possibly be the same stuff, but it was the exact same plaid pattern, same colours, everything. I look at the tag. Polyester/viscose/Lycra. I felt the fabric, it felt the same.

It’s been driving me nuts.

Could it have been a better quality fabric? Polyester/viscose anything for 35£ a meter seems excessive, but maybe the thread count was higher?

Is it possible that simply by being sold in London it was more expensive? A 33£ markup seems outrageous if not against some sort of law.

Three possibilities come to mind.

First, as I mentioned in the Dollar Store thread, the lower cost fabric could be seconds, i.e. something may be a bit off in the manufacturing process, maybe there’s a run in the threads that you can’t see or isn’t on the section you brought or maybe the print is slightly off, in color or registration where opposing colors meet.

Second, it could just be market pricing, adjusted for the store location costs plus the the preferences of the clientele they service. Were the other fabrics close to the price range of one you saw? Were there any 2£ fabrics for sale? When I worked in flooring sales, the owner had two stores, one a high-end store and the other a warehouse store. There were some products that were exactly the same, but were priced a $1-$2 per sq ft more at the high end store. Doesn’t seem like much, until you consider the difference could add up to thousands of dollars when doing an entire home.

Third, the low cost fabric may been a knock-off of the one in the one in the London store. I know certain printed patterns can be copyrighted, so there may be something illegal on the part of the discounted product, but it would have to be an exact duplicate of the original.

As for it being illegal, it’s supply and demand, selling at a price the market will bear. No different than people asking for and sometimes getting outrageous prices for something that’s usually sold for much, much less.

I don’t know know about England, but in some States in the U.S. price gouging on emergency essentials such food, water, gas, electric generators, etc. is illegal during times of civil emergencies (typically natural disasters). Any other time, these items can be sold for whatever the market will bear. $10 for a bottle of water at a stadium event or concert, sure!

Birmingham, the second largest city in the UK, with a population of over 1 million, is a small town now? :confused:

You’re comparing a poor quality product bought at a sightly sketchy cheap market- and yes I have been there- to what is hopefully a high quality version at a shop with probably obscene rent. Where does the size of the city come in?

I live in a genuinely small town, and I don’t think I’d be able to find any fabric here for £2 a metre, the local fabric shop sells nothing under about £4, because it’s not worth the space in the store. The market next town over sells cheapy crap down to about £1.50/m, because it’s a market.

London rents and business rates are somewhat higher, I suspect, than whatever a market trader in Birmingham pays for a pitch. Plus there is always an element of charging what the market will bear. Plus, your market trader in Birmingham might have bought some “seconds” or other reject that the manufacturer couldn’t shift to their full-price outlets (I say nothing about whether it might have been affected by falling off the back of a lorry).

Sure, Birmingham isn’t small, but it’s not London. A market compared to a high end fabric shop in London isnt going to have the same quality product. Or so I thought. Thats why we went, and that’s also why I was so surprised to find those two specific prints at such an outrageously marked up price.

I felt the fabric, I looked at the tag. It felt the same(I’m not an expert) it was made from polyester/viscose, not a material I’d expect to be so expensive. I hope it wasnt the same, because whoever buys it for 35£ a meter will be really disappointed with the results.
So, the cheap stuff could be a lower quality product, a product with a defect, a knock off, and/or price gouging. I wish there was some way to know for sure.

Or it could just be pricing.

The concept of “price gouging” is not very useful at its best, but how does it apply to a totally unnecessary purchase like plaid fabric by the meter?

Ya ok, i stand corrected. Assuming it’s the same material, a markup off 33£ still seems excessive.

Gasoline sure gets expensive the closer you get to downtown.
Even comparing within the city limits to adjust for taxes, there’s a premium to pay closer to the city center.

It’s all about supply and demand, location costs, atmosphere, and perceived value.

If you pay 35£ for fish and chips at a fancy London restaurant and you know you can get the exact same thing (supplied ingredients and flavor) at a Birmingham eatery that sells it for 2£, is the markup excessive? Not for those who live in London, can afford the 35£ meal and enjoy the atmosphere of eating at the fancy restaurant.

Re-reading your original post, especially the part about the seller hinting at the poor quality of the fabric, it’s seems likely it was a bad run.

So the question has nothing to do with the title, but is ‘why is fabric described as not very good, bought in Birmingham rag market, drastically cheaper than something that looks kinda the same but may be significantly different in manufacture, bought in an upmarket London fabric shop?’

Cheap shit from the market is cheap, upmarket is often just another way of saying high markup, plus the market stuff could have been faulty seconds, or even a different material that looked similar. Nothing to do with the size of the city.

Retail prices in London are sometimes a bit higher than the rest of the country, but generally not significantly for stuff like fabric, though places aimed at tourists can have startlingly high prices, presumably in the hope that the customers haven’t quite worked out the exchange rate (London restaurant prices, surprisingly, can actually be lower, at least in mid-range and lower eateries, due to the insane competition). Once you start looking at ‘boutique’ shops though, they’re aiming at the people who don’t even look at the price. You can get local produce from round here- maybe 4 hours drive away- for £5 a jar that’s for sale at over £20 a jar in a ‘specialist’ London deli.

London has more shops, but it doesn’t have some kind of trade monopoly on goods. In fact Birmingham is a good place to pick up a bargain, due to its road/rail links and cheaper warehousing, a lot of imports pass through there from various ports, and there’s some good fabric shops around. Come to think of it, if the market fabric was seconds, it’s likely it’s a local product, or at least that’s where the distribution centre is.

Oh, and in the interests of fighting ignorance- when writing prices in Sterling, it’s always £ first, so £5, not 5£ (pence is always after, so 45p; p45 means you just lost your job). The backwards version seems to be increasingly common on handwritten signs, but it isn’t correct; I think it’s largely an Eastern European thing, my former Polish workmate used to forget and do it on signs, and I had to go round changing it back…

I live in an area which combines not being in Barcelona but next town over, having a lot of immigrants, and being within spitting distance of Barça’s installations.

There’s a mixture of places that are on their second to fourth generation, places which cater to the high-income tree-huggers, and cheap stores. Identical bottles of the same soda can, so long as it’s somewhat “exotic” (Latin American and Indian brands for example), vary in price 5x from one store to the one across the street. Bonus points: some of those Latin brands are bottled locally!

It didn’t kinda look the same, it was the same plaid pattern. I’m especially sure about the grey plaid, as I spent a couple hours lining up pleats for a skirt, and it was a rather simple plaid. I wish I had taken a picture.

Also, and the bit that I’m bothered about the most, is that the fabric in London was polyester/viscose, which is a cheap material. I can buy good wool in Birmingham for way less than that. At that price I’d expect quality material.

They are opening a Tim Hortons in Birmingham on Thursday, so i’ll be making a trip this weekend for some coffee and timbits. Yay! I will see if I can find out the fabric composition on the cheap plaid.

I’ve seen similar instances where it’s comes down to a mixture of supply, demand, competition, perceived value, and probably a few other variables mixed in for good measure.

Is it a popular pattern in London? Is that the only shop in London where it’s available? Combining popularity with scarcity is a common money printing recipe. It’s price gouging in cases like emergency supplies mentioned above. With “luxury” items it’s just P.T.Barnum. There’s a sucker born every minute.

Is it a store known for higher end/higher priced goods? Maybe most of their wares are worth 35£/meter and they’re slipping in the occasional cheap stock to boost the profit margin.

Then there’s always the possibility that your local store screwed up and should have been pricing it at 20£/meter and just set the decimal wrong in the system.
Anecdotally, I was in Vegas for business one week and went to a vodka bar one night. Looking at their menu I saw a familiar name brand listed at $350 a bottle. The same brand I have on my shelf here at home for $28 a bottle. I asked the bartender if it was the same one he was serving shots of and he confirmed it was so there was nothing special about it. Just the P.T.Barnum syndrome.

Projammer’s post reminded me that in hostess bars, drinks for the hostesses are $20-$40 and a bottle of champagne starts at $300. Ummm…so I’ve been told!:rolleyes:

Also, sometimes the hostess drink’s are just tea or non alcoholic liquid to simulate a real drink. Ummm…from the same sources who told me about the prices. :stuck_out_tongue: