What is the biggest discount you’ve seen at a supermarket promotion?
5% off the entire bill? $5 rebate for every $50 spent? No items marked price will be over $15?
This is the question that the Le Ya Supermarket marketing department staff is discussing now. What is the strategy they should take to defend their position as the market leader?
“When Yong Zheng launches a new supermarket, it’s their standard practice to give a 2 to 5 percent discount on the total bill,” says one of the supervisor. “I think they will be employing the same strategy this time around.”
Another manager says: “But we cannot deny the fact that Yong Zheng’s shop layout is better than ours, and the quality of their service is generally better than Le Ya. Plus, we’ve been in business for at least seven years. Our shop will inevitably look more tired than a brand new shop.”
“Yes, we must give our supermarket a good clean up, and put some emphasis and resources on staff training to make sure our service matches theirs.” Someone agrees with the manager.
“And we can meet their promotion deal.” Someone else suggests. “The customers are familiar with our shop. People are creatures of habit. I don’t believe they can snatch all of our customers.”
As everyone is sharing their opinions, Mu Han Xia quickly jots down their thoughts. She quickly realises her colleagues are very experienced sales staff. A lot of the ideas are practical and good.
Occasionally, she looks up at Meng Gang. He is a good and competent leader. He is quick to approve all the good ideas. But he won’t shut people down immediately even if their ideas are not do-able. He will ask plenty of questions, then put forward his views for why he think they won’t work. This way, people don’t get offended or feel rejected.
To conclude, the marketing manager says: “Manager Meng, I think we should settle for a 5% discount. That will match or better the deal that Yong Zheng will be offering. At the moment, our cashflow float is around two million dollars. For a one week promotion, we will need to put in around one million dollars. That should be sufficient.”
Meng Gang nods. He agrees with this tactic.
At the end of the day, it’s easier to defend than to attack. The same discount for the same goods. A customer will always choose the shop they are more familiar with.
Mu Han Xia’s house is not far from the supermarket she works at. The neighbourhood is like a village inside of a big city.
In the evening.
After she gets off the bus, she walks on a bumpy dust road back to an old rundown building. She is covering her nose and mouth with her hand to avoid breathing in too much dust.
The neighbourhood is half empty. Most of the residents have moved to newer suburbs.
She walks up six flight of stairs to her small little studio apartment. She opens the door, puts her backpack on the floor and slumps into the sofa.
“Ai……” She gives a long sigh. It is as if she is happy and sad at the same time.
After a brief rest, she sits up. She looks at the portraits of her parents, which are framed and mounted on the mottled wall. She mutters to herself: “Mom, your daughter is awesome. Today, Manager Meng promoted me to the role of marketing assistant. I am not a sales person anymore. I am now a white collar worker!”
“Come to think of it, this is comparable to my high school friends that have a university degree. But mind you, my results were better than theirs in high school.”
“It seems fortune is finally in my side. Mom, Dad, I will burn you some paper money tomorrow. And I will have a good meal myself. Finally, I am moving above the poverty line! We must celebrate.”
“I miss you both.” Then she starts to cry. But after a while, she wipes her tears and lies in bed in a daze.
She remembers what Lin Mo Chen says today. She feels very uneasy about the statement he made.
Someone mentioned in the meeting today that Lin Mo Chen graduated at University of Columbia in the US. One of the universities she wished she can study there one day. Suddenly, she thinks of something. She switches on her lap top and enters an internet chatroom.
“Monkey, are you there?”
‘Monkey’ is one of her high school classmate. He is currently studying in New York - in the University of Columbia.
Around midnight, ‘Monkey’ comes online: “Hi, class captain. What makes you decide to contact an old friend? What’s up?”
Mu Han Xia smiles. She replies: “I can contact you just because I feel like it, right? How are you anyway?”
Monkey: “I am well. You know me. I can still thrive under any situation.”
Mu Han Xia: “Ha ha… That’s great. But actually, I do have something I want to check with you. Lin Mo Chen. He graduated at University of Columbia. Have you heard of him?”
Monkey: “No…. Is he in the same year as us?”
“No, he’s older than us by a few years.”
“Ok, I will ask around and get back to you soon. Don’t worry. I have lots of friends here. And the Asian community is not that big.”
Mu Han Xia: “Thank you so much :)”
After a while, Monkey sends another line to her: “So, how’s life for you nowadays?”
Mu Han Xia pauses for a while, then answers: “Pretty good!”
Monkey sends back an emoji with a little man dancing.
Mu Han Xia takes a look at the cute cartoon and laughs.
The next morning, Mu Han Xia is formally transferred to the marketing department.
Although she is still working in the same building, (just on a different floor), the scope of her work is so different. A clean and quiet office. Everyone is working behind their desk and their computer. If they are not at their seats, then they are in a meeting somewhere, either in-house with other colleagues, or outside with suppliers / clients.
Her supervisor introduces Mu Han Xia to the rest of the team. On her first day of work, she is assigned some simple administrative tasks. Mu Han Xia is friendly, humble, obliging and efficient. She soon gains favour with all her colleagues.
After work, Mu Han Xia meets up with He Jing. The two young ladies take a bus to the river side night markets. After lots of kebabs and beer, they sit satisfyingly by the water’s edge and chat under the stars.
“Hey…..” He Jing looks at Mu Han Xia: “Tell me honestly, how much do you earn now?”
“Let me think….” Mu Han Xia smiles: “Double the amount I used to earn.”
“Wow!” He Jing exclaims and pretends to punch her face: “Hey, stop bragging in front of me…”