Monday, October 10, 2011

I believe in Santa Claus (and not just at Macy's).

         According to reports, Christmas won't be all that merry for retailers this year. Already the early forecasts are out, and the Wall Street Journal says we can expect two things: (a) shoppers will make fewer trips to the store this year, and (b) when they do, they'll head right for the bargain racks.

         ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic in malls and combines that with economic data, predicts national sales will rise 3% during November and December. That's less than last year's 4.1%. However, if you look at it the way good package-goods marketers do, those predictions may be keeping your eye on the wrong ball.

         Most package-goods marketers aren't interested in increasing the size of the whole market.  Rather, the goal is to increase their share of market, their percentage of the total. Not the total.

         Shoppers will be spending over $453 billion this Christmas season. With those big bucks on the table,  retailers should be concerned with increasing their share of that. They have plenty of room for dramatic growth.

         But good marketers wouldn't stop there. They'd figure out what they could do about (a) and (b).

         Every quarter in my Sales Promotion class, we work on how to get shoppers to visit a store more often. My students discuss the tried-and-true ways (such as Gap's discounts for coming back the following week), and create some ingenious in-store events and programs. It's a traditional marketing problem; retailers should try to solve it as well as my students do.

         The worry about everybody heading for the bargain racks may be a high-class problem. At least customers are heading into your store. What can a merchant do while they're there? How can customers be kept longer, and encouraged to look around? Maybe to visit another department or buy more than they had planned.

         Every marketing problem is an opportunity. Marketers should be concerned with getting the most out of business that does exist, instead of worrying about business that doesn't. They should involve the entire staff; get everyone together to deal with these measurable opportunities.

         There's nothing like a home run for the holidays.


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