No matter how clever your advertising, no matter how many customers come in the door, a sale is not successful unless it moves merchandise.
The product has got to go out the door or your promotional money is wasted. And product will not move unless your customers perceive they are getting a bargain.
Simply having a sale doesn’t create the perception in the minds of your customers that they are getting a bargain. Rather, they will simply believe that you are overpriced the remainder of the time.
Every sale must have a reason.
Here are five reasons for a sale you can use in your store to bring in customers and move out merchandise:
1. Truckload sale – Conduct this sale in cooperation with one of your major suppliers. Park a big truck in your lot and stack a few pallets and boxes around it with the name of your supplier on them. Offer product demonstrations in your store. When a customer buys a product, you can even have him walk out to the truck to pick it up.
Use a big sign to keep a running tally of the number left of each product. Promote the sale through media advertising, mailings and lots of display signs. You could rent a trailer sign and park it near the street.
The customer perceives you got a good price on the product because you bought a whole truckload, and you are passing along the savings to him.
2. Down time sale – Every store has slow periods, times when customers just don’t seem to be around, times when you think you might be better off not even opening the doors. Maybe it’s Thursdays; or mornings before 10 a.m.
Run a special during those slow hours. Your "Thursday Sale" could offer specials on specific products, or a straight percentage discount on anything in the store.
Promote your "down time" sale with window displays and in-store signs, mailings to senior citizen centers, PTAs, and other groups whose members may have time to shop during these off hours.
3. Your birthday sale – Here’s a novel idea: offer a discount (say 10%) to any customer on his or her birthday (or even during their birthday week). This sale creates goodwill among customers as well as moving products out the door.
Promote the sale using in-store signs, a flier stuffed into the bag with every purchase, and even in your advertising.
A twist on this idea is the "Birthday Club." Customers fill out a form listing their birthdays. Then a week or so before the date, you send them an invitation to stop by for a free product or special discount, just for them.
Get a community newspaper columnist signed up and ask him do a story on how he celebrated his birthday at your store. You could also propose a story about which birth "days" had the most customers.
4. Product of the week sale – Every week, feature a different product at a special price. Be sure to offer deep discounts on exciting products that will lure customers back to the store week after week. This can be a tremendous traffic builder. Naturally, they’ll spend plenty on other products besides the sale item.
Promote this sale with newspaper advertising and direct mail. Be sure to feature each week’s special item and its deep discount price.
5. Senior sale days – Seniors are often more flexible with their time. They are perfect for drawing into the store during otherwise slow periods. Offer a senior discount at traditionally slow times, say one morning each week.
Promote this program through seniors clubs, senior citizens centers and senior newsletters. During May (Senior Citizens Month), ask your local paper to do a story about your busy Senior Sale Days as a "human interest" feature.
When holding any sale, be sure to have plenty of stock on hand of whatever is on sale. Offer a rain check to customers if you run short.
Promote heavily. A sale must be heavily promoted so as to attract non-customers. You don’t simply want to give a discount to the folks who would regularly buy from you anyway. The sale must bring in new customers.
Robert Grede is the author of "The Retailer’s Guidebook" available online at www.thegredecompany.com. He teaches marketing and promotion at Marquette University.
Feb. 6, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee