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Fall Retail Forecast

08/18/2011

An alert reader from Manhattan sent me an article from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal titled “A Season (or 13) For Shopping“. The author, Sarah Nassauer, puts together a thoughtful assessment of why retailers have seasons – to generate sales.

Today we stand at the precipice of the holiday selling season. How do we know that? Simple…it’s Back To School season for most retailers. Many retailers have expanded Back To School to include Back To College (I guess college kid’s are too cool to call college school). BTS and mid-August mark the official start of the holiday selling season. Next up will be Halloween (early September) then Christmas (mid-October) then Black Friday (Thanksgiving weekend) then after Christmas (sometime around Christmas Eve), then my personal favorite Storage and Organization during the first weeks of January.

Nassauer asserts the reason these “seasons” exist, ” is to get people to buy impulsively, something they do less of these days. The number of impulse purchases fell to 15% of purchases in 2010, from 29% in 2008, according to market-research firm NPD Group.”

For example Cabela’s the outdoor retail leader will be having their “Great Outdoor Days” sale/season this weekend. This event is billed as “Our Largest Event & Sale Of The Season”. OK, great. So when Cabela’s has their “Hunting Gear Blowout Sale” that must be the largest event and sale of that season. I think I’m following this retail logic.

Interestingly few retailers see these seasons as part of the big picture. Retailers view each of these seasons/sales as individual events. They plan, buy and market for the event. Once the event is done they prep for the next season/sale and the cycle repeats itself. Their target audience, that’d be customers, sees the same seasons/sales on the continuum of life. They buy based upon need, seasonality, their ability to pay and sometimes even on impulse.

Consumers don’t live to shop…at least not anymore. The sooner retailers figure that out the better.

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