Like many of you, I seem to subscribe to an awful lot of mailing lists. Stores, Rue La La emails, Groupon and similar deals, various mailing lists, for dining in NYC, and the list goes on and on. Despite the fact that about 9 times out of 10, I never bother to actually read the emails, I have yet to unsubscribe from any of these. I always just hit delete, without remembering to unsubscribe, and then get frustrated when the next crop of emails comes in, and so forth, creating a vicious cycle in my very own inbox.
Recently, there has been some talk in the blogosphere about cheapening the brand, and I have to wonder, at what extent do the companies do it to themselves?
Everyone knows that money is tight right now for most Americans, and plenty of companies out there that are competing for the same dollar, so coupons are very common right now. Whenever I buy something online, I always make sure to check to see if the company has any current coupon codes out before checking out. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. If it's an item that I really want (or need) I'm going to buy it regardless of whether there is a coupon code or not. However, there are several companies that always seem to have multiple promotion codes going at once and send emails about them every day. For instance, I have learned never to buy anything from Lucky Brand, Banana Republic, or the Gap for full price, because they're just going to send me a 20% off coupon for it the very next day. That seems a bit counterintuive. If I'm prepared to buy a $100 dress, wouldn't the company rather sell it to me for $100 than for $80? It's almost as if to some extent, the companies are digging their own graves.
Another example of this are the semi-annual and annual Lilly Pulitzer and Vera Bradley warehouse sales. I have not attended any of the Vera Bradley sales but have gone to several of the Lilly ones. Merchandise is drastically reduced and at both of these sales, it is very common to see people buying up as much as they can in order to turn around and sell it on ebay for a profit. For both of those brands, if you do ebay searches for them right after the sales, the amount of hits and merchandise on there soars. I have seen dresses that I've bought at the Lilly store for $168 being sold for $59.
I can understand why brands would want to have these warehouse sales to get rid of past seasons' merchandise that simply did not sell well or to sell samples and recoup some of the costs that it took to make those, but what has perplexed me about both of these sales is that current merchandise is always sold at them. For example, at the June Lilly Pulitzer warehouse sale, I bought a Claire dress in Prep Green Hit the Spot for $99. That same dress was being sold across the street at the King of Prussia store for $258. Because of things like this, I have had friends tell me that they only buy Lilly or Vera at the warehouse sales or on ebay because it's just not worth it to pay full price for them.
Now I am never one to turn down a good coupon and sale is my favorite four-letter word, but I wonder if companies are inadvertently sending the wrong message to their clients. There are always going to be those loyal few who will buy many items each season, sale or not, and any brand always relies on that customer base to keep it going. But what about the rest of their customer base? What do you think? Are companies inadvertently sending the wrong message to their customers or is a plethora of sales a good thing for them in the long run?