The Dirty Truth of MSRP in Discount Retail

The Dirty Truth of MSRP in Discount Retail
March 22, 2024 | Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the retail industry, businesses have long relied on the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) as a cornerstone for setting prices that appeal to both customers and retail buyers. The MSRP acts as a reference point, influencing how people perceive value and make purchasing decisions.

However, when it comes to discount retail, a surprising truth emerges – the importance of MSRP diminishes significantly. In the world of discounted products, MSRP is just one small piece of the puzzle for determining pricing strategies. Instead, there is a shift in focus, and buyers in this area consider a more nuanced approach.

The Paradigm Shift in Discount Retail

Discount retail operates by different rules compared to other sectors, and the prices of products are not based on the MSRP. Instead, buyers in this field evaluate similar products available in the market, which is known as “comps.” These comps act as a reference point, helping buyers determine a fair and competitive price for a particular product. This approach deviates from the traditional reliance on the manufacturer’s suggested price, questioning the idea that the MSRP has the ultimate authority in determining pricing dynamics. In this scenario,

One might argue that MSRP becomes largely irrelevant as other factors take center stage in shaping the cost landscape of discount and off-price retail.

Factors Affecting Pricing in Discount Retail

In discount retail, the benchmark for comparable products includes items within the same category, regardless of their origin or quality differences. The focus is on equivalence rather than brand identity. For example, a t-shirt is seen simply as a t-shirt without considering brand distinctions beyond its basic purpose and form.

This article explores the various factors that overshadow the importance of MSRP in discount retail. Beyond the manufacturer’s suggested price, several elements influence pricing in this competitive market. Understanding these complexities helps sellers navigate the challenges of discount retail and make informed purchase decisions that align with consumer demands and market dynamics. Here are some factors that determine what discount buyers are willing to pay for your inventory.

Same Item Pricing: Redefining MSRP in the Digital Age

In the digital age, retail buyers search online platforms, including Amazon and Walmart, to compare prices. The prices found on these platforms redefine the MSRP in the eyes of retail buyers.

Online pricing tools allow buyers to enter a product code and instantly see the price range across the internet. This poses a challenge for brands to maintain control over their perceived value. For example, if the MSRP is $19.99, but an Amazon third-party seller offers the same item for $8.99, that becomes the new benchmark price.

Competitor Pricing: The Influence of Generic Equivalents

When comparing prices, buyers don’t focus on brands but on the product itself. For example, all dress socks are considered equal, regardless of the logo. This can be frustrating for brands that try hard to make their products stand out.

Historical Sales Data: Using Insights for Pricing Offers

Discount retail buyers analyze historical sales data when making offers on excess inventory. They examine past sales performance and consider factors like peak selling periods and fluctuations in customer demand.

They also study pricing trends over time to identify any correlation between price adjustments and sales volume. This data-driven approach helps buyers make informed decisions and optimize profitability while clearing excess inventory.

Market Trends: Aligning Offers with Consumer Preferences

Buyers keep an eye on market trends to understand what customers want. By staying informed about popular products and emerging trends, they can make offers that match current demands.

Manufacturer’s Costs: Evaluating Production Expenses

Buyers look at the actual cost of making a product when deciding on offers. This helps them negotiate deals that are fair for both parties involved.

As an example, we worked with a company that made beautiful pottery.  The buyer came back to us saying they could get a similar product out of China for half the price, hence, that was their offer. 

Strategies for Maintaining Brand Value

To go beyond just looking at the price tag (MSRP) and focus on building brand value, brands need to consider various factors that make their products stand out. This includes things like quality, innovation, customer experience, and brand reputation. By emphasizing these aspects, brands can create a strong connection with consumers that goes beyond pricing alone.

Here are some practical ways brands can maintain and enhance their value:

Price Perception: Monitoring and Enforcing Pricing Strategies

Brands should closely monitor their online pricing on platforms like Amazon and Walmart, as the digital landscape shapes consumer perceptions. Buyers compare prices across platforms, forming expectations based on prevailing market rates. Brands need to have a consistent pricing strategy across these channels to ensure that the perceived value aligns with the brand’s image. They need to aggressively monitor pricing and let all their “traditional” distribution vendors know the consequences of MSRP infractions.

Enforcing pricing strategies throughout the supply chain helps maintain fair and consistent pricing, building consumer trust and a unified market presence.

Innovation: Elevating Perceived Value through Forward-Thinking

Investing in innovation can boost a brand’s value. When a brand is known for being innovative, consumers are more likely to see its products as valuable and worth paying more for. Even traditional items can seem more valuable when they come from a brand associated with innovation.

Brand Image and Identity: Creating a Distinctive Presence

Brand Image and Identity

To justify paying more for a brand’s products, discount and off-price retailers look for a strong brand identity. Consistency in branding builds recognition and trust among consumers.

A strong brand identity not only enhances the perceived value of products but also sets them apart in a crowded market. Discount retailers are more likely to invest in brands that bring a distinct identity to their shelves, even if it comes at a slightly higher cost.

By understanding the importance of brand image, companies can position themselves as valuable assets for discount retailers, creating a win-win situation.

Packaging and Presentation: Enhancing Perceived Value

Investing in attractive and functional product packaging can enhance the perceived value of a product. Well-designed packaging not only looks good but also communicates quality and attention to detail. Consumers are willing to pay more for products with appealing packaging because it enhances their overall experience.

By focusing on these strategies, brands can maintain and enhance their value in the competitive retail market.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does MSRP stand for, and what does it mean in retail?

MSRP stands for Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. It represents the price recommended by the manufacturer for retailers to sell their products to consumers.

How does MSRP differ from other pricing terms like MAP price and list price?

While MSRP is the price suggested by the manufacturer, MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) is the lowest price at which a retailer can advertise a product for sale. List price, on the other hand, refers to the highest price at which the product is generally sold.

Why is MSRP important in the retail industry?

MSRP serves as a reference point for retailers to set their prices, maintaining consistency across different sellers and ensuring fair competition. It also helps consumers gauge the value of a product and compare prices across retailers.

Can retailers sell products below the MSRP?

Yes, retailers have the flexibility to sell products below the MSRP. However, there are often restrictions to advertise prices below the Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) set by the manufacturer.

What role does MSRP play in determining the final selling price of a product?

MSRP acts as a suggested starting point for retailers to set their selling prices. While the final selling price may vary depending on factors like competition, demand, and promotions, MSRP provides a baseline for pricing decisions.


In conclusion, brands need to go beyond the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price and focus on building a strong brand value. This involves investing in product quality, innovation, effective marketing, and a strong brand identity to shape consumer perception. By doing so, brands can establish an emotional connection with consumers and maximize the premium paid for their products.

Strategic partnerships, like with Overstock Trader, can help brands communicate their value to discount retail buyers and navigate the market effectively. This collaborative approach enhances brand visibility and ensures pricing strategies are respected, leading to success in the discount retail space.