July 06, 2011


My former employer (Nordstrom) seldom held promotional events.  Yes, I know, the best practice pundits will tell you all about the benefits of well-timed discounts and promotions, good for them.

Over in the real world, Nordstrom was(is) not a promotional company ... hosting only three sale periods during the year.  One of those is called the "Anniversary Sale" ... held roughly from mid-July through the end of July.

Fall merchandise is offered to the customer, at a discount (yes, I know, the best practice pundits will tell you that you never discount new merchandise ... just bear with me, given that Nordstrom has been in business for a century, there might be something credible to what they do).

The event generated as much business in the last two weeks of July (a period of complete death in apparel retailing) as is generated during the Holiday season.

Go check out your local store next weekend and see what all of the buzz is about.

Anyway, that's not what this post is all about.  This post is about you.  You manage a reasonably-sized business, right?  So what is the event that you hold each year, an event that is so grand, so amazing, providing so much value to your customers, that your customer cannot help but open her handbag and hand you her credit card?

You have an event like this, an event that you've turned into an annual tradition, right?


We just went through the July 4th holiday weekend (or Canada Day for those of you reading this north of the border).  This event is loaded with traditions that have nothing to do with the actual meaning of July 4th ... municipalities create blindfolded dingy races and parades and hot dog eating contests, annual traditions that you feel compelled to participate in.  Events also play a significant role in our businesses ... and I'm not talking about a random 20% off plus free shipping event in early August ... I'm talking about an actual tradition that customers cannot wait for!

Instead of focusing on f-commerce, or on selling via Twitter, or on making sure that you have large orange buttons instead of small green buttons on your website, why not simply focus on "commerce"?  Create an event, a tradition, something for your customers to look forward to.

Use the comments section to describe events that businesses hold, traditions that you simply cannot wait for.


  1. I like events for all the reasons you mention: tradition, fun, etc., but don't events take sales away from other parts of the year? Events like Black Friday that may take away sales you would receive later?

    I agree with you. I just always find your insight valuable.

  2. Sure, they take sales away from other times of the year.

    The important thing is to measure the incremental benefit. If you look at an event like Cyber Monday, that takes away enough sales from the two weeks before/after to mess things up, coupled with a discount, and you sometimes make less profit.

    In the case I cite, we lost maybe $20,000,000 in sales in the two weeks before/after the event, but made $200,000,000 or more in the weekend the event started and following days ... so even on sale, the math was wildly positive.

  3. Can't argue with those numbers :)

  4. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Interesting post and a neat concept. I'm having a hard time coming up with a single example of a unique event, from any retailer, that is something I expect and look forward to each year. They all blend into a sea of endless discounts where only the day and the reason for the sale change.

    As for an idea, how about continuing to buck the "never discount new merchandise" thinking and holding a one-day (or 12 hour, or 4 hour) sale at the start of each new season, on just the new products. Drive immediate demand and generate instant customer reviews versus waiting for new products to slowly gain traction.

  5. Everybody should be open enough to testing ideas like yours, right?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Summer Schedule / Document Your Progress This Summer, Ok?

Most summers, I cut back on how often I publish. This summer will be no different ... and you may be subjected to a few videos instead of bl...