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Move Merchandise & Preserve Your Brand – Secret Sales & Offering Discreet Discounts

August 1, 2009
Sale Signs Can Cause More Harm Than Good, So Think Twice About Using Them

Sale Signs Can Cause More Harm Than Good, So Think Twice About Using Them

This very interesting article in the New York Times talks about a great way to move merchandise in a tough market while preserving the look and reputation of the retail store: the discreet sale.

Rather than post big sale signs, which can mar a store’s reputation, high-end chains are trying to unload [merchandise] by periodically telling customers that certain items are on sale, even if the price tags say otherwise. The stores also engage in the electronic equivalent of whispering in a customer’s ear: sending select customers e-mail alerts about private online sales.

Customers who subscribe to e-mail messages from Neiman Marcus, for instance, are regularly invited to “midday dash” sales. The two-hour, online-only sales promise 50 percent off luxury goods that can be bought only by clicking on a link in the e-mail message. Customers learn about the sale mere hours before it begins. This week’s “dash” featured a $697 Burberry handbag, marked down from $1,395. A Carmen Marc Valvo chiffon gown was $575, down from $1,150. And Cole Haan flats were $82, down from $165.

One of the key advantages to the quiet sale is it’s being discreet and offering plausible deniability:

Another advantage of secret sales is that they require little or no advertising, so stores can privately cut deals with customers and publicly maintain that they do not discount their brands.

“It gives them plausible deniability,” Ms. Martin said. “I think that is a much better approach in luxury than what happened over Christmas.”

The article ends with a quote comparing sales to heroin, saying that once you start discounting, it’s very hard to stop. If you’re a retailer, we strongly suggest thinking about discreet ways to get in touch with your customers and letting them know that, because they are special to you, certain items can be acquired at special prices.  For example, you may want to host a quiet lunch sale for men’s dress shirts, or email your weekend regulars to announce a “sport sale” where all sport shirts and sport jackets are discounted from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Saturdays, in time for you to wear them out that evening.

Whatever your strategy, the discreet discount is the easy, cost-effective way to preserve the upscale image of your store, keep good customers happy and move merchandise that may otherwise have been with you longer than you would like.


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