i Editor's Letter: A question of price


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The Independent Online

A recurring issue in i is the price of items in elements like the Style or 10 Best pages, or restaurant reviews.

i readers are upmarket, of a similar profile to rivals in the quality market. That said, (and it's impossible to write a 'one size fits all'), many are clearly also in 'the squeezed middle': working, but suffering job worries, a higher tax burden and with less disposable cash than you had before.

Some may have read Vivienne Westwood's disparaging remarks yesterday about how badly we all dress, and agreed with her. Others saw the picture of her and had a "pot, kettle, black" moment. More still may have been aware of the price of the great Dame's clothes and turned away in exasperation.

However, even at times of great recession, there is both a desire for escapism and, let's be honest, a subset of the population that can buy at will. I could never spend £1,000 on a handbag, even as a gift (10 Best, i yesterday). But there are many people who are doing so. Some that balk at such a price tag however will happily spend more than £2,500 a year on cigarettes (at £7 for a packet of 20 a day). That's more shocking to me. Other than for my mortgage, I could not pay that for anything other than a car, a family holiday, or a once in a lifetime special item of jewellery.

Most people do not buy on cost alone – no matter the price point. Pizza Hut or The Ivy, Jimmy Choo or Aldo, Waitrose or Aldi, i or The Times. A cost-value equation is to be made that applies both to the middle-class mother doing the weekly shop, or a student looking for a new hoodie. 'A cynic', wrote Oscar Wilde, 'knows the price of everything and the value of nothing'. What would he have said if he were being squeezed?