If shrinkflation is a manufacturing sleight of hand, reducing pack sizes while maintaining the price, at least consumers are still getting the real deal; with skimpflation, that’s not the case, as lower quality ingredients and materials are used or service levels are cut, even as prices stay the same.
Why it matters
It’s a new name for an old practice – coined by NPR in the US – but there are very real implications for brand equity. And consumers do notice. According to the chief executive of the UK’s Institute of Customer Service, “The number of customers experiencing a problem with an organisation is at its highest ever level.”
Its most recent data shows 16% of customers had experienced a problem with a brand’s service in the previous six months, with quality issues or items being out of stock the most common complaints.
Examples of skimpflation
Slower delivery times, whether that’s pizzas or furniture. “That loss of timeliness is a quality downgrade,” economist Alan Cole tells the Guardian.
Cancelled or delayed flights. Staff shortages are at the root of the recent and ongoing chaos at UK airports.
Thin socks. Economics professor David Blanchflower recalls that in previous recessions “the price of socks remained the same and, as costs changed, the thickness of the sock changed”.
Menu engineering. Restaurants use cheaper ingredients and/or adjust the meat-to-veg ratio with less, expensive meat and more, cheaper vegetables.
“Skimpflation is a leadership issue masquerading as an economic issue,” suggests leadership strategist Scott Edinger, writing in Forbes. “Successfully combatting it will help you preserve your brand, strengthen your differentiators, and succeed where others fail. Especially with a recession looming on the horizon.”