I have done business with several dealer, 2 dealers never gave me discount, the other one after I bought a couple of small things started giving me nice discounts, he also now gets all my business and referals.
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My experience with dealers is probably not as extensive as that of the many who will no doubt respond, but I've bought a few pieces, and this is how it went: one dealer dropped 15% off his price once I hit his "magic number". Prior to that it was 5% to 10% off his posted prices (which were list or just a bit below). On certain items, he'll do me even better now, but on low margin items it's list or walk. I worked with this guy for several months, built a rapport, and still visit just to keep in touch or listen to whats new. Another dealer fought like a wildman over every penny, no discounts and no help, until I found something he wanted off the floor - 20% off immediately, and then my wife turned on the blues - another 10% later I was one happy audiophile (he even gave us new in box instead of floor models - cool dude!). Another dealer is pretty straightforward - his price is 10% off list, specials as marked, doesn't care a fig to haggle. I respect that approach, but have yet to buy anything there. If there is a rule of thumb in there, I dunno what it is, except perhaps to try to find a dealer you like, take some time with them so you both know what you want and what you want to spend, then see what kind of a deal you can make.
I love your name. If I were a dealer I would try to accommodate anyone who would pick out Jenniethecat for a posting name. The other posts are correct about discounts. Most audiophile lines vary wildly in their margin. There are items that can produce a small profit for the dealer with 50% off. There are many more that only have 35% or 45% total mark up, and from that the dealer must pay shipping and accept responsibility for making the customer happy. In those situations, you would be lucky to get any discount, and 10% or 15% would be the best you could ever hope for.
I hate haggling myself, but I haven't run into a dealer in a while who even tried to sell at list. 10% or so seemed to be what they offered, and I didn't press them further. Floor models and close-outs are another story, of course. There 20% is to expected, and I've done better. Another factor, of course, is gender. Let's face it, when it comes to dealing with female customers, some members of the sales profession can be a little, shall we say, backward. They may be assuming you're an easy mark, in which case you're going to have to be assertive. Don't be afraid to make a low offer. They can always make a counteroffer.
Nobody's asked what the dealer did for you. If low price stuff and the dealer spent a lot of time with you in his store, pay list or maybe 5 to 10% off. If high priced they should have room to discount some more, but will generally be reluctant to do so. If mail order and the item is hard to come by you can still get 10%, if widely available 20%. In the US. In the UK, dealers dont like to discount but they will cover the shipping maybe.
Will the dealer take the item back and not charge a "restocking fee" if you dont like it? Less of a discount should be expected.
Now, there are lots of sales on the internet of equipment that has been discontinued by the manufacturer or current stuff that the dealer is just closing out. Shop around if you havent taken up your local dealer's time.
I have found quite a few stores that don't want to offer any discount on individual pieces, even if they are large ticket items, they stick to the list prices. Their exceptions are if you are buying a system or many pieces then they may offer a discount on the package, or if they have seen you in the store and kinda know you, and business has been slow, then they may give you a 5% or 10% discount. They usually have a private sale, or other special sale a few times a year where can get a discount on the new stuff and better discount on the floor models or close outs. I have found a few dealers that took the time to get to know me and talk about my preferences etc. They give me a 10% off of anything I want without asking, and then give better discounts when they can. Its a nice way to keep a customer coming back, if you know you can get a decent deal from a dealer without even asking or haggling over the price.
Here in Chicago and the surrounding areas, we have over a dozen decent stores to choose from. Most of them will discount a little bit on items here and there. Obviously, the more that you spend either on a regular basis or on "one big shot" will give the dealer more room to work with you. I have found that one specific dealer who is highly respected typically discounts measurably more than other dealers who are not as nice to deal with. On top of this, that store also offers a VERY attractive trade in / upgrade program. As such, it's hard to beat someone that offers personable service, good prices and willingness to work with you on trade-ins.
As others mentioned above, dealers that DO take care of their customers, spend more time with them making sure that they get what they need in the first place AND do good follow-up deserve more money than the guy that hands you the gear and pushes you out the door. Obviously, it's pretty nice to find someone that IS great to work with AND discounts. Those shops are out there, but you might have to look around a bit to find them. Sean
I get good discounts at the stores I regularly do business with 10-15%--and continue to do business with them. I rarely pay list except for small ticket items and very rare items (like Camac connectors for Levinson amps--and they are ridiculously expensive--I should have asked on Audiogon where to get them at a discount). First time purchasers buying one item that is not priced in the stratospher will frequently not get a discount--depends on the dealer of course. For multiple items, my opinion, you should always get a discount. The % varies depending on number of items, price, dealer margin, and competition in the area.
It might be interesting to note that margins for speakers are in general the highest, some greater than 50%. This of course is not true of all speakers--but most. Also, you may not be aware that some lines of equipment have discount caps, meaning the dealer is not permitted to discount that product more than x% (or they will lose their dealership). Martin Logan does this and the cap is 10%. This is because there are cities with several Martin Logan dealers--and they do not want the dealers competing on price. Of course if you are bundling a package, you can take a larger discount off another item. There are some manufacturers that allow for dealers to accept mail orders and some do not. If you have a dealer in your area that does do mail order on a product you are interested in, chances are he can sell it for less because he typically competes on price with the mail order market and he gets better volume discounts from the manufacturer. I have done quite a bit of business with one such company in New York. They have a nice showroom, very knowledgable people, good discounts, everything you could want. I still do business with them, even though I no longer live close enough to go to their showroom anymore.