Can raising prices instead of discounting increase sales?

According to a Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: the psychology of persuasion, raising prices might be a better sales tactic than slashing them. 

In the world of retail and sales, reducing prices is usually the go-to solution for driving customer engagement and moving slow-selling merchandise. However, an intriguing alternative approach challenges this conventional belief: instead of resorting to discounts, consider the possibility of raising prices. Surprisingly, increasing prices can not only bolster revenue but may generate a surge in product sales. 

This is according to a principle discussed in Robert Cialdini’s bestselling book, Influence: the psychology of persuasion. 

Price as a trigger for quality

In the book, Cialdini shares an anecdote about a friend with an Indian jewelry store in Arizona. Cialdini wrote that the story involved an allotment of turquoise jewelry that the woman had been having trouble selling, despite it being peak tourist season and the pieces being “good quality for the prices she was asking.” After trying and failing with some standard tactics like moving the items to a more central display area and asking her sales staff to push them hard, the woman wrote a note to her head salesperson the night before leaving for a buying trip. She hastily scribbled: “Everything in this display case, price × ½,” hoping to offload the pieces, even if at a loss. 

Cialdini explains:

“When she returned a few days later, she was not surprised to find that every article had been sold. She was shocked, though, to discover that, because the employee had read the ‘½’ in her scrawled message as a ‘2,’ the entire allotment had sold out at twice the original price!”

The explanation he gives is fairly simple:

“The customers, mostly well-to-do vacationers with little knowledge of turquoise, were using a standard principle – a stereotype – to guide their buying: ‘expensive = good.’ Thus the vacationers, who wanted ‘good’ jewelry, saw the turquoise pieces as decidedly more valuable and desirable when nothing about them was enhanced but the price. Price alone had become a trigger feature for quality; and a dramatic increase in price alone had led to a dramatic increase in sales.”

Cialdini adds:

“These were people who had been brought up on the rule ‘You get what you pay for’ and who had seen that rule borne out over and over in their lives. Before long, they had translated the rule to mean ‘expensive = good.’ The ‘expensive = good’ stereotype had worked quite well for them in the past, since normally the price of an item increases along with its worth; a higher price typically reflects higher quality. So when they found themselves in the position of wanting good turquoise jewelry without much knowledge of turquoise, they understandably relied on the old standby feature of cost to determine the jewelry’s merits.”

Similarly, as many people are not experts on skincare and product ingredients, they will often accept an expert’s knowledge. This doesn’t mean one should overprice products or gouge customers. It means that rather than discounting a product and thereby decreasing its perceived value, one might be able to move in the opposite direction and increase perceived value.

If you are raising prices on one or a few products, this isn’t something you have to announce, unlike an overall price hike. After all, if people haven’t been paying attention to the products they’re not going to know what they cost or notice a change. 

More things to consider when trying to move unsold merchandise

We can’t guarantee that increasing prices will sell the products, as it depends on many other factors, including what the products are, your customer base, the time of year, and more. But we wanted to bring the idea to your attention. Only you know your customers well enough to decide if such a tactic will work. 

More things to consider when it comes to moving merchandise that isn’t selling include making sure you have really highlighted the benefits of the product and its key ingredients. If there is a particular pain point the product is designed to address –  dry skin, muscle pain, environmental stress – assess whether you’re doing a good job of communicating that. Someone ordered this product because they believed in it. It may be just a question of getting others to see why.


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at

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