99 Cents Only Stores Raise Prices To 99.99¢, Narrowly Avoid Having To Buy New Signs

99 Cents Only, the L.A.-based chain of not-quite-a-dollar stores, has come up with a novel approach to the growing losses it faces as the economy worsens: they’re raising their top-priced items to 99.99 cents.

When we wrote last month about the financial hardships facing 99 Cents Only, we questioned their CEO’s idea of raising prices above the $1.00 threshold:

Of course, breaking their 99-cent promise—the core of their branding—would be risky, not to mention expensive (think of all the signage they’d have to change).

Congratulations on staying somewhat true to your core values, 99 Cents Only. We anticipate a flood of emails from consumers angry at being denied their hundredth of a cent.

Top Price Jumps to 99.99 Cents at 99 Cents Only Stores [NBC] (Thanks to Sunny!)
(Photo: greenwenvy08)

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  1. timmus says:

    So this raises revenue 1%? Seems like kind of a risky thing to put the company image on the line just for a maximum 1% in extra chump change. Surely there’s got to be better ways to raise profit.

    • mike says:

      @timmus: I’m not sure I follow you. They are increasing from $0.99 to $99.99, aren’t they?

    • TracyHamandEggs says:

      @timmus: It may be a 1% revenue change, but who knows what that is profit wise. If their margin on every item was $.10 before then its a 10% profit jump. And my guess is their margin is at least that low.

    • @timmus: Correction: they’re raising “revenue” by .99%!

      I’m kidding, of course, but there are some issues in your commentary.

      First, they’re raising margins on some items by 1%, not revenue. Whether the actual impact on revenue totals 1% (or even more) is not clear.

      Second, to a retailer that relies a high volume approach to sales, such a change can actually make a difference. It’s likely from the consumer’s perspective the change won’t make a difference in terms of buying habits. Most people simply write it off as a dollar anyway.

      But from a store with an annual revenue of $1.15 billion, that’s another $11.5 million in the coffers (assuming you’re correct about your 1% increase). While that may be chump change in the grand scheme of things, it could potentially mean that thousands get to keep their (albeit shitty) jobs, etc.

      Then again, more than likely it’s going to an executive’s house payment…

  2. Ghede says:

    See, that’s a mistake, it’s actually 99^99 cent store. They are targeting governments.

  3. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Anybody know if they’ve got Ped Eggs?

    • ChuckECheese says:

      @Amy Alkon: No, but they have pregnancy tests.

      Where do you get some hundredths-of-a-cent coins to make change at this place? Are they minting their own?

    • admiral_stabbin says:

      @Amy Alkon: Are those Mac compatible?

      I’ve never seen one of those stores in person, but, that signage is absurd. I think they missed the boat on branding anyhow…”Let’s go to the dollar store!” has a much better ring than, “Let’s go to the 99 cent store!”.

  4. AMetamorphosis says:

    1% more isn’t worth the negative image this leaves in my mind and I’m a dollar store shopper.

    BTW … I have seen a decline in the type of merchandise available for a buck.

  5. AMetamorphosis says:

    Additionally, a quick glance @ that sign would lead me to believe it is a 99 dollar & 99 cent store, not a dollar store.

  6. mbz32190 says:

    The whole news release from 99c Only read more like a PR stunt than anything else. I really don’t see how this will give them a major boost in profits. I mean, Dollar Tree seems to be doing okay, and I know a fraction of a penny will add up, but it doesn’t make sense at all.

  7. aikoto says:

    Charging in partial cents should be illegal. I don’t know how the gas companies get away with it.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      @aikoto:
      Yeah, we really need laws over something so trivial. Gas stations don’t charge people partial cents. The price per gallon includes partial cents, but they don’t sell gas in even gallon increments. Even if they adjusted the price per gallon to exclude partial cents, there would still be rounding when tallying the total cost. What the gas station charges you is the rounded total price.

      Your desire to eliminate partial-cent rates is pretty short-sighted. Sure, the difference seems trivial when you’re dealing with gasoline, where that .9 cent pricing saves you 1 cent for ever $40 you spend. But it’s not so trivial when you look at your natural gas or electric bill, where even cent rates might result in a minimum of a ~10% difference when the company adjusts the rate. There is no reason to outlaw that level of granularity when you’re dealing with rates.

      • Orv says:

        @mugsywwiii: Wholesalers frequently charge in fractional cents, too. It makes sense when you’re dealing in quantities of several hundred. It also makes sense for bulk items like gasoline.

  8. ironchef says:

    it’s not the 99¢ that’s the problem. It’s the word ONLY.

  9. RunawayJim says:

    I once had a math teacher do a proof that showed that .9=1. So they would, in fact be charging $1 and not $0.9999.

  10. Craig says:

    I read the sign as $99.99 and even after seeing the article refer to 99.99 cents it still took me a while to realize it was still under a dollar. People aren’t used to seeing fractional cents and my guess is that the majority of people seeing the sign are going to read it the wrong way. As a result, whatever they may gain by the addition 1% in sales is going to be more than offset by lost customers as a result of confusion with the sign.

  11. Triborough says:

    How about rebranding to $*.99 only?

  12. tc4b says:

    I think the average consumer will still understand that it’s a store full of cheap shit.

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    Digits 1-8 for signs must cost them extra.
    When we see $6.66 stores, we’ll really know we’re in the throes of our Republican Golden Age. Or Heavy Metal is making a BIG comeback.

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m taking a hacksaw to some pennies lying around, so the next time someone charges me 9/10ths of a cent, I’ll be SO ready!

  15. Thank god. I was afraid the new high prices would take botulism-tinged cans of rancid menudo from China off my dinner table for good.

  16. Marshfield says:

    We have stores around here that are called “Mighty Dollar” which sell lots of stuff for over a dollar. I hate those stores.

    And yes, most stuff in the dollar store is crap but you can still find some good deals. I go every chance I can, when we travel out of the area and get into “Dollar Store” country.

  17. JasonR says:

    The only deception here will be when the person at the register charges $1.00 per item instead of $0.9999 each. For 51 items, they’ll be overcharging by a penny:

    51 x $0.9999 = $50.9949 which correctly rounds to $50.99
    51 x $1.00 = $51

    I wonder if most cash registers can even handle four places after the decimal.

    - Jason

    • shepd says:

      @JasonR: Sure, cash registers can handle this. You would just need to replace the $ sign with a cents sign.

      Instead of tapping in $0.9999, you will now tap in C99.99. Set the register to round to the nearest “dollar” and you’re all done!

      Now, will the cashier be able to easily remember that the price shown is in cents, rather than dollars? I can see 100.00 showing up on the till and the cashier asking for $100, rather than 100 cents.

  18. IIRC, it’s illegal to charge in units less than 1/10 of a cent (1/1000 of a dollar, also know as a “mille”). The Coinage Act of 1792, which defined the currency of the United States, states that the “money of account” be kept in dollars (1/1) dismes (dimes- 1/10), cents (1/100) and milles (1/1000). Therefore, anything less than 1/1000 of a dollar is not a valid price in US Currency.

    • shepd says:

      @Crim Law Geek:
      You’d be right if 99 cents only was a government institution. It isn’t, though, so they can charge in whatever manner they like — they could bill in orange, if they wanted to.

      Now, if you were in debt to the store, that’s when “for all debts, private and public” comes into play. The debt collector can ask for 100 oranges, but they need to offer a way to pay it with legal tender. :-)

      [www.ustreas.gov]

      As long as the 99.99 cent store doesn’t offer credit, they have nothing to worry about. They can simply refuse custom from anyone who doesn’t play by their rules, and, considering there’s nothing particularly *ist about wanting 99/100 th of a cent, the government must let them.

      Now, on my side of the pond, we have a similar act, but it’s sticky point is it allows a creditor or the government to say “screw you” if you bring a bag of pennies in to pay your debt. There are maximum limits on how much of each coin a creditor/government is required to take (they are quite minimal, 20 pennies, 10 dimes, etc). Anything above that is them being nice. To stop someone from avoiding paying their taxes because they took out all their money in pennies, banks, in Canada, are REQUIRED to deal with making change without charging you or forcing you to take out an account; so there’s no excuse.

  19. jharrell says:

    I really think they meant $99.99 not 99.99c that is retarded.

    It is already 99c, adding .99 of 1 cent is a waste of time… are they really gaining anything from almost adding 1 cent?

  20. BytheSea says:

    I don’t get it. Are things in the store ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents? One penny below $100?

  21. FierceDeityLink1 says:

    Either people can’t read the article or the Photoshop is confusing them (alternatively, people who work for Verizon that don’t know the value of 0.02 cents).

    It’s 99.99 cents, similar to how gas would be $3.50 and 9/10 of a cent. Granted, this is 99 one-hundredth of a cent, so it’s slightly more greedy than gas stations.

  22. fredmertz says:

    Why do people forget that items cost fractions of a penny all the time. That’s what happens when you have sales tax!

  23. clickable says:

    LOL! Today I passed by a store on Church Avenue in Brooklyn that was called “99 Cents and Up! or Lower.”

    So, uhm, basically, this is a store that has items in all price ranges.

    I’ve seen a lot of stores boasting “99 Cents and Up” or “99 cents or lower,” but this was the first one I saw that hedged its bets so thoroughly