What are Loss Leaders In Retail?

Loss leader pricing is a business tactic that serves a variety of purposes. Selling cheap printers that require pricey ink or offering discounted hot dog buns at a grocery store only to raise the price of hot dogs are two examples of loss leaders. The profits from other products sold during your loss-leader promotion must be sufficient to offset the low profits or losses incurred on the featured goods for a loss-leader strategy to be successful.

Labor Day sales at department stores are an example of loss-leader pricing strategy. Department stores promote discounts on summer clothing, backyard barbecue cooking, and tableware to make room for the accumulation of fall and winter holiday shopping merchandise as a result of the season changing and the need to draw customers shopping for back-to-school clothes. Smart Apple watchers are aware that a new release is imminent when Apple lowers the prices of its most recent products. Dealers also announce price reductions on models from the previous year in September, the traditional month for new vehicle models. The demand for the newest vehicles is also increased by the appealing deals on older vehicles.

Loss leader pricing attract customers to stores. However, a customer entering a store is probably going to see other items to purchase. The loss leader strategy involves meaningfully tying the appealing sale items to other products that the customer needs or wants. For instance, a store that sold electronics once discounted video recorders and tapes while also selling projection televisions with a high profit margin. Even online retailers successfully use loss-leader pricing to draw customers. Pay attention to the “customers also looked at these products” messages when you next visit a website to take advantage of a shoe discount to see other shoes and accessories you might find appealing. Additionally, the right-hand margin may feature enticing goods that are the result of marketing research into the psychology of purchasing decisions.

Offering hot deals on merchandise that your competitors cannot match repeatedly will help you establish your reputation as a local low-cost provider of specific goods. Your target customer becomes conditioned to always come to your store first. Warehouse discounter Costco offers discounted tires, discounted gasoline, and special offers inside the store, all of which result in significant cost savings. However, if you bring a calculator with you when you shop there, you will discover that many of their regular items are not marked down below the prices offered at other stores. People visit Costco to complete all of their shopping and fill their carts due to the excellent price deals. The same strategy used by the retail behemoths is used by supermarkets and grocery stores to draw in customers. Offering discounts on milk, eggs, and other essentials while maintaining higher profits on other items, they are able to manage pricing on thousands of items, literally from soup to nuts, thanks to computerized inventory management.

Knowing how effective their advertising spending is at attracting customers is a major challenge for retailers. One method of determining whether your advertisements are reaching your target market is to consistently check the outcomes of customer visits. The best way to achieve this is by promoting a loss-leader product at a price that will undoubtedly draw customers. The amount of merchandise that is sold, when combined with a coupon that can be linked to a specific newspaper or neighborhood flyer, demonstrates how effectively your advertisements are targeting. Promo codes can be used to track the success of affiliates and other relationships in the online world. In order to support your promotional expenditures with concrete sales data, Groupon and similar promoters also provide ways to track your online deals.

Victoria Duff is a recognized expert in entrepreneurship, drawing on her background as a manager of investor relations, a venture catalyst, and a facilitator of start-ups. She has been a regular columnist for “Digital Coast Reporter” and “Developments Magazine” since 1995 and has written numerous articles for e-zines. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor of Arts in public administration.

How Does Costco Keep their Chickens so Cheap? (Loss Leaders Explained)

Loss leader pricing examples

You can use the well-known tactic of loss leader pricing to draw clients and boost overall sales. Here are some examples of loss leader pricing:

Gaming consoles

Popular loss leaders include gaming consoles, especially when they are new. They are frequently in high demand and can be used to purchase a variety of profitable items. You can upsell customers on the following items when using a gaming console as a loss leader:

Grocery store essentials

Because they are so well-liked in grocery stores, items like meat, eggs, bread, and milk can be used as loss leaders. Many people are excited to save money on these necessities because they are aware of what they typically cost. Customers will want vegetables to eat with their meat, cereal to go with their milk, and sandwich fillings for their bread. These are also products that people typically buy with other items.

Usually, these items are positioned so that customers must pass other goods they might need. They might also be promoted as a component of a recipe, encouraging customers to buy other goods. These products are perishable and are likely to sell more quickly when they are discounted, so they make good loss leaders.

Hardware and tools

Because they frequently come with a lot of accessories that customers can buy along with them, large power tools make excellent loss leaders. These extras, which frequently represent impulse buys, include storage containers, bits, stands, and blades. Many buyers also purchase other supplies they require for projects, such as wood, stains, and gardening equipment.


Due to the possibility that your customers will also purchase ink, copy paper, and stationery to use with them, printers are another example of loss leader pricing. Additionally, you can promote printers that use photo paper, additional computer accessories, and software for editing documents or images.

What is loss leader pricing?

Loss leader pricing is when you set the price of a popular product below its minimum profit margin and occasionally even below cost in order to make a bigger profit from other products that customers will purchase. Typically, the store’s leader is an item your customers frequently purchase to entice them in. The objective is to get customers to purchase the bestseller as well as other goods with significantly higher profit margins, whether through product design, store placement, or advertising.

Loss leaders are often heavily advertised to attract customer attention. Customers are drawn to your store because they frequently purchase the item or because it is widely known that they are getting a fantastic deal. Loss leaders can be placed in the back of the shop so that customers must navigate many other items to get to the sale. To encourage customers to buy other higher-profit items as well, you could merchandise the loss leader on a flashy display with accessories or other related products nearby.

Benefits of loss leader pricing

Loss leader pricing is a popular strategy in retail. The following are a few advantages of using loss leader pricing:

Attract customers

To entice customers to your store, use loss leader pricing. Customers are drawn to sales prices, and you can gain a reputation for offering excellent deals. Customers are frequently more willing to try a new product when it’s on sale, so you can also use loss leader pricing to sell products that are brand-new to the market.


To draw attention to other products in your store, use loss leader pricing. This can be accomplished by setting up gorgeous merchandising displays or positioning them so that customers can see the additional products you sell. Additionally, you can teach your staff to provide supplementary items, such as boots to go with a fall coat.

Sell excess inventory

You can sell inventory that has been sitting for longer than you anticipated by using loss leader pricing. Lowering your inventory costs by offering your excess stock at a discount can increase business for your store.

Track advertising

Loss leader pricing can be used to monitor how effectively you are reaching your customers. When you promote a loss leader sale, it’s simple to estimate how many customers are purchasing the loss leader based on your advertisements. Using this data, you can decide whether you need to alter your advertising approach.

Disadvantages of loss leader pricing

Although there are many potential advantages to loss leader pricing, there are also a number of potential drawbacks. Loss leader pricing can:

Lower brand perception

Some customers might think that the quality of the product is reflected in the steep discounts or low prices. If your customers think the product is too cheap, they might think it’s low quality. You might want to think about how frequently you use this tactic and how much you discount your loss leaders.

Be a complete loss

If customers do not purchase items at regular prices, you will not make up the loss. Loss leaders should entice customers to purchase additional goods so that you can turn a bigger profit overall. By carefully selecting the products you use as loss leaders and marketing them alongside high-profit items, you can avoid this drawback.

Lower customer frequency

If you use loss leader pricing too frequently, your customers might wait to purchase products until they are on sale. This purchasing strategy is comparable to stocking up on decorations after a holiday or purchasing swimsuits in the fall. If customers wait for big discounts, their frequency of purchases from your business may decrease, which may have an effect on their customer lifetime value. Examine your loss leader pricing frequency and whether you are teaching your customers to wait for discounts.

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