Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bucking the trend

Customers in Chennai look forward to the annual year end sale extravaganza unleashed by almost every consumer durable retailer. So it was a pleasant surprise to see these advertisements by a consumer durable retailer who is trying to break this pattern while attempting to grab a larger share of consumer spends by changing the rules of the game. After all Retail is all about breaking shopping habits and gaining through this disruption of established consumer behavior.

In fact the story behind the year end sales itself has its genesis in similar intent; that of wanting to break established consumer behavior and gaining in that process.

December 15th to January 15th is a period called Margazhi in the Tamil calendar and this is somewhat similar to the shradh period observed in Northern Indian. Margazhi is supposed to be a month dedicated to devotion and prayer. Marriages are not conducted during this period and usually any materialistic activity like big ticket purchases is avoided in this month.

Although the idea and intent of this belief was steeped in tradition, religion and culture, it did hurt the Retailers of big ticket items rather badly. Lack of marriage led purchases coupled with people not making even routine purchases for their home led to very sharp decline in sales and usually left the Retailer and manufacturers with large inventory levels at the end of the year.

One innovative Retailer decided to buck this trend and started the concept of year end “Cost Price Sale”. The USP of this activity was very simple and of great interest to consumers. The initial few years saw this sale being conducted on the 30th and 31st of December and the 1st of January. Advertisements and adequate publicity created enough consumer craze and even mild hysteria to get the best deals. All the previous conditioning of Margazhi went out of the window and one could see hordes of people thronging the outlets. It went to such an extent that the Retailer had to take separate premises to conduct this sale in order to manage the crowds.

Like all good things, imitation followed and soon every consumer durable Retailer started having the year end sale in some form or the other. Typically this craze kicks off from the 25th of December and goes on till the 1st or 2nd of January.

I guess the Retailer whose advertisement I have shown above has decided to rewrite the rules of the game by advancing this sale by a whole month.

It might work well enough for the Retailer this year, but whether this is sustainable is doubtful because of the following reasons;

This year Diwali was very early and so November did not see very heavy expenditures by consumers. This is not the case in most years wherein Diwali and its associated expenses is during November and hence shoppers would need at least a month plus to recover.

What started off as a single Retailers innovative gambit has now become a market occurrence and consumers play the cherry picking game by visiting every retailer and comparing prices. In that context would customers blindly trust that they are getting the best deals and make purchases without the reassurance of comparison? I doubt it.

Anyways, let’s wait and see how this pans out and whether a new trend is established.


Deepa said...

This ad is truly a refreshing take on striking an emotional chord with a business prespective unlike the zillion retailer driven campaigns of bumper prizes,lucky draws,celebrity dates which no one wins in any case.

Retail campiagns are slowly becoming a cat and mouse game with every week/weekend expecting an up,up,up trend as opposed to seasonal variations due to festivals/monsoons/school etc.Today, we expect consumers to shop every week and every month (excluding food/grocery purchases) forgetting the need to emphasize on consumer wants/needs.

It is an irony that "A retailer is also a consumer at some point and yet fails to understand the logic of need for shopping".

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