A loss leader (also leader) is a pricing strategy
where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services. With this
Sales promotion is one of the elements of the promotional mix. The primary elements in the promotional mix are advertising, personal selling, direct marketing and publicity/ public relations. Sales promotion uses both media and non-media mark ...
Marketing is the process of exploring, creating, and delivering value to meet the needs of a target market in terms of goods and services; potentially including selection of a target audience; selection of certain attributes or themes to emph ...
strategy, a "leader" is any popular article, i.e., sold at a low price to attract customers.
One use of a loss leader is to draw customer
s into a store where they are likely to buy other goods. The vendor expects that the typical customer will purchase other items at the same time as the loss leader and that the profit made on these items will be such that an overall profit is generated for the vendor.
"Loss lead" is an item offered for sale at a reduced price that is intended to "lead" to the subsequent sale of other services or items. The loss leader is offered at a price below its minimum profit margin—not necessarily below cost. The firm tries to maintain a current analysis of its accounts for both the loss lead and the associated items, so it can monitor how well the scheme is doing to avoid an overall net loss.
Marketing academics have shown that retailers should think of both the direct and indirect effect of substantial price promotions when evaluating their impact on profit. To make a very precise analysis one should also include effects over time. Deep price promotions may cause people to bulk-buy (stockpile), which may invalidate the long-term effect of the strategy. This is the association rule
When automobile dealerships use this practice, they offer at least one vehicle below cost and must disclose all of the features of the vehicle (including the
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* Vîn TV, a Kurdish language satellite television channel founded in 2007
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). If the loss-leader vehicle has been sold, the salesperson tries to sell a more upscale trim of that vehicle at a slightly discounted price, as a customer who has missed the loss-leading vehicle is unlikely to find a better deal elsewhere.
Loss leaders can be an important part of companies' marketing and sales strategies, especially during "dumping"
*A loss leader may be placed in an inconvenient part of the store, such as at the rear of the store, so that purchasers must walk past other goods that have higher
Profit margin is a measure of profitability. It is calculated by finding the profit
Profit may refer to:
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* Profit (accounting), the difference between the purchase price and the costs of bringing to market
* Profit (econom ...
*A loss leader is usually a product that customers purchase frequently—thus they are aware that its unusually low price is a bargain.
*Loss leaders are often scarce or provided with limits (e.g., maximum 10 bottles) to discourage stockpiling
and to limit purchases by
Small businesses are types of corporations, partnerships, or sole proprietorships which have fewer employees and/or less annual revenue than a regular-sized business or corporation. Businesses are defined as "small" in terms of being able to ap ...
es. The seller must use loss leaders regularly if they expect their customers to come back.
*Some loss leader items, such as fruits, vegetables and pastries, are perishable and cannot be easily stockpiled by customers.
*Some loss leaders, rather than being advertised as bargains, are high-end, costly products offered below profit margin to enhance the company's prestige and/or to attract "lookers" or "window shoppers" who may buy other less expensive but more profitable merchandise. For example, if a pawnshop
Harley-Davidson, Inc. (H-D, or simply Harley) is an American motorcycle manufacturer headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wisconsin () is a state in the upper Midwestern United States. Wisconsin is the 25th-largest state by tot ...
motorcycle in its display window at below the normal profit-making cost, this motorcycle will generate a lot of walk-in traffic during the period before it is sold. These shoppers may end up using the store's other services or making other purchases.
Some examples of typical loss leaders include milk, eggs,
Rice is the seed of the grass species
Biology is the scientific study of life. It is a natural science with a broad scope but has several unifying themes that tie it together as a single, coherent field. For insta ...
, and other inexpensive items that grocers would not want to sell without the customer making other purchases. While some customers may have the discipline to only buy the loss leaders, the loss leader strategy works because a customer who goes into a grocery store to buy an inexpensive bread or milk item may decide to buy other grocery items.
The ''Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders'' were a series of promotional sampler compilation albums
released by Warner Bros. Records
throughout the 1970s. Each album (usually a 2-record set) contained a wide variety of tracks by artists under contract to Warner Bros. and its subsidiary labels (primarily
Reprise Records is an American record label founded in 1960 by Frank Sinatra. It is owned by Warner Music Group, and operates through Warner Records, one of its flagship labels.
Artists currently signed to Reprise Records include Enya, Michael ...
); often these were singles, B-sides, non-hit album tracks, or otherwise obscure material, all designed to arouse interest in the artists' regular albums. Warner advertised the Loss Leaders albums by inserting special illustrated inner sleeves
in all of its regular album releases, listing all of the currently available Loss Leaders and including an order form. Each loss leader double album was priced at US$2, significantly less than a comparable regular-release double album of the time.
The first Loss Leaders compilation was ''The 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook'', featuring a wide range of artists from Miriam Makeba
to The Mothers of Invention
; the last of the original series was the punk
and new wave
-themed ''Troublemakers'' in 1980.
In 1979, American businessman Earl Muntz
decided to sell blank tapes and VCRs
as loss leaders to attract customers to his showroom, where he would then try to sell them highly profitable widescreen projection TV systems of his own design. His success continued through the early 1980s.
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was originally intended in the 1950s to be an "image builder" and loss leader for
The General Motors Company (GM) is an American multinational automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Detroit, Michigan
Michigan () is a state in the Great Lakes region of the upper Midwestern United States. With a popula ...
, the idea being that men would go to showrooms to look at this "automotive Playboy Bunny"—which they knew they could not afford—and end up purchasing a lower-cost model. However, it enjoyed significant sales successes in the 1960s and produced a substantial annual profit.
On its launch in 1959 the British Motor Corporation
car was sold at a starting price (including taxes) of £496 for its most basic model, and it was estimated that BMC lost £30 per car sold at this price. However, the headline-grabbing price was significantly lower than that of the car's contemporary rival, the
The Ford Anglia is a small family car that was designed and manufactured by Ford UK. It is related to the Ford Prefect and the later Ford Popular. The Anglia name was applied to various models between 1939 and 1967. In total, 1,594,486 Angl ...
—indeed the only cheaper four-wheeled, four-seater car on the British car market at the time was very basic and old-fashioned Ford Popular
, which sold for only £2 less than the basic Mini. While BMC lost money on every basic Mini sold, such cars were unattractive to many buyers since they lacked features such as heaters, floor carpets and opening rear windows and BMC priced the better-equipped models (which cost from £537) to make a small profit, using the basic car as a loss-leader to allow the promotion of a starting price below the significant £500 mark and to make the Mini at least appear to undercut its main rival on price. The ploy did not work entirely as BMC intended—even in its most basic form, the Mini was far superior in many areas to its rivals while also being lower in price. BMC sold far more basic Minis than it had anticipated, meaning that it sold many Minis at a significant loss. Despite the car being a bestseller in Britain (and several other markets) it made little to no profit for many years.
A supermarket is a self-service shop offering a wide variety of food, beverages and household products, organized into sections. This kind of store is larger and has a wider selection than earlier grocery stores, but is smaller and more ...
s sell food staples such as
A banana is an elongated, edible fruit
In botany, a fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants that is formed from the ovary after flowering.
Fruits are the means by which flowering plants (also known as angio ...
Milk is a white liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals (including breastfed human infants) before they are able to digest solid food. Immune factors and immune-modul ...
at less than the cost at which they were purchased in order to draw customers to their business. These items are typically strategically placed far from the entrances of the store to enhance this effect. In the case of milk, supermarket chains often refuse to pay market rates to avoid making a loss.
Many toy store chains and online retailers sell diapers or nappies as a loss leader in order to entice parents into the store in the hopes that the children will spot toys, bottles or other items that the family "needs".
Large hardware stores often sell larger tools, such as drills or electric saws at cost or below. They do this expecting customers to buy accessories such as blades, drill bits, stands, or cases, along with the new tool. These items tend to have a much higher profit margin, and are often impulse buys.
Smartphones and mobile electronics
Some consumer electronics stores use smartphones and other mobile electronics as loss leaders. The company makes less profit on the smartphone or mobile device, but they make up for this by the sales of higher-profit accessories such as cases, headphones and power adapters.
Home video game consoles
, such as the
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The Xbox One is a home video game console developed by Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporation producing Software, computer software, consumer ...
The PlayStation 4 (PS4) is a home video game console developed by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Announced as the successor to the PlayStation 3
The PlayStation 3 (PS3) is a home video game console developed by Sony Computer Entert ...
, are often initially sold as loss leaders. This helps assert market share for the console, which enables the creation of a development ecosystem for games. The profit is then made on the sale of games and accessories over the system's lifetime.
Competition law is the field of law that promotes or seeks to maintain market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies. Competition law is implemented through public and private enforcement. It is also known as antitrus ...
* Dumping (pricing policy)
* Freebie marketing
* Parallel importing
Predatory pricing is a pricing strategy, using the method of undercutting on a larger scale, where a dominant firm in an industry will deliberately reduce the prices of a product or service to loss-making levels in the short-term. The aim is th ...
* Pricing strategies
In marketing, product bundling is offering several products or services for sale as one combined product or service package. It is a common feature in many imperfectly competitive product and service markets. Industries engaged in the practic ...
Razor and blades model
The razor and blades business model is a business model in which one item is sold at a low price (or given away for free) in order to increase sales of a complementary good, such as consumable supplies. It is different from loss leader marketi ...
* Suicide bidding
Tying (informally, product tying) is the practice of selling one product or service as a mandatory addition to the purchase of a different product or service. In legal terms, a ''tying sale'' makes the sale of one good (the ''tying good'') to the ...