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  • Pamela Tucker

"Pre Sale" Could be a "No Sale"


With fashion and retail disruptors shaking up these and related industries, along with the continuing trend of shoppers looking to spend on "experiences" and less on fashion related goods, many retailers are hard at work-- stepping up their efforts to combat competition and to attract and to build long-term profitable relationships with shoppers.

A growing number of retailers have been connecting with customers through social media. For example, a retailer will promote specific items, such as a shoe, or a coordinated look on Instagram. With a link to the retailer's website, the shopper could then quickly shop for these items on the retailer's website. However, one sales event tactic that continues to be used is the "Pre Sale." With this approach, the shopper, who visits a store is encouraged to select and pay for the items in the store, have the items held at the store until the sale begins and then come back to pick up the items or have them sent to her / him once the sale begins. Shoppers and stores probably like this sales technique, or it wouldn't still be in place. Shoppers like it because they buy an item they want at a better price and retailers like these sales so potentially they could generate more sales when the person comes back to pick up the merchandise a week or so later. Yet, from the perspective of a shopper, in recent years I've found these "Pre Sale" events are poorly communicated and therefore they aren't always enjoyable. Yes, a lower price is the best; but, it isn't always an easy experience. A"Pre Sale" related strategy that could be improved and a few suggestions for doing so relates to communications.

Last fall, while shopping in a particular store I was unaware of a "Pre Sale" event. I selected a few items and then paid for them. I moved on to another department located on the same floor. This time the sales associate told me about the "Pre Sale." The rule was that I could select the items and then pick them up next week. I completed the transaction and made a note to come back next week. After that, I tracked down the sales associate in the previous department and asked him about the "Pre Sale" event and if the items I just bought qualified for that. He said yes. He didn't tell me about the event when I purchased the clothes just twenty minutes ago. I then gave him the purchased items and we set it up for the "Pre Sale" event. The shopping experience in this store could have been better and the communications problem was easily resolved. However, the poor communications experience stayed with me.

A few weeks later I was at another retailer and had another poor communications experience. In this situation, again unaware of a "Pre Sale" event going on, while waiting to pay for the items I overheard the sales associate helping the woman at the front of the line. The sales associate asked the shopper if she'd like to do the transaction as a "Pre Sale". She did. When it was my turn to pay, since I was buying the same brand as the customer who just got in on the "Pre Sale" I assumed I'd be asked the same--Would you like to buy this as a "Pre Sale?" However, she didn't ask and started the standard check out process. I ended up getting in on this "Pre Sale." However, it was up to me to ask. I did get a better price. However, similar to the first experience it left a sour note.

Retail managements should understand that when there is a “Pre Sale”event in a store, “the policies and procedures” need to be clearly communicated to the sales associates and the proper messages given to the shoppers. I've also had terrific experiences with other retailers as their "Pre Sale" events were clear and concise. In these cases I’ve received emails and phone calls about these events. I’ve also been “allowed” to buy and take home / or shipped to me the merchandise during the "Pre Sale" event. These notifications are a result of my relationships with a few sales associates and store managers. Reflecting on the title of this posting, "Pre Sale" Could be a No Sale" is based on my experiences and informal chats I've had with others about these erratic "Pre Sale" practices. The retail winners who rely on "pre Sale" events will be those who communicate the right messages to the associates on the front lines and provide them with the proper and consistent messages to shoppers. Those that don't improve on their "Pre Sale"communications strategies-- well maybe "No Sale" will be the result.


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