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Sales Promotions - Build them right!

 Sales promotions - build it right - Marketing Doris

The Manchester Evening News covered the news earlier this week that Build-a-Bear were offering members of their club to come into store on Thursday 12th July with their child and purchase a bear at a price equivalent to the age of the child. Therefore, if the child is 2 you only pay £2.

My initial thought was good idea from a marketing perspective and I only scanned over the details in in article as it wasn’t really an offer of personal interest. What did jump out were the brief conditions of the promotion at the end of the report. Based on that information I realised that if it had been running when I had been in store the previous week to buy a bear as a prize draw, my bear would have cost the max price of £25. Fortunately, it wasn’t running then, and I had bought the bear (with clothes) for £19.

I didn’t give this any other thought until yesterday when I happened to be in Warrington with a client. Popping out to grab a sandwich you couldn’t help but notice the increased noise volumes as you entered Golden Square and then see the queues of families queuing out of the door to the Build-a-Bear store and up through the shopping centre.

I made the connection straight away and was intrigued enough to jump online to see if Warrington was unique, it wasn’t. Stores in other shopping centres had had to close for security reasons and there were many reports of people queuing for hours, being turned away and disappointed children.

By the end of the day it had made headlines in regional and national media, and probably not for the reasons Build-a-Bear would have hoped for.

It reminded me of the infamous Hoover promotion in the early 1990’s, when they offered free flights (worth £600) to the USA when you purchased a £100 vacuum cleaner. Initially the promotion had been successful when it had focused on selected European destinations, but when it was extended to include the US. Havoc ensued and the pressures on production and the company. It was estimated to cost the company £50m (compared to the £30m they made in sales) to pay for the airline seats and settle legal claims from those who did not get their tickets.

It will be interesting to see how the aftermath of the Build-a-Bear Age promotion will pan out, the company did attempt to respond quickly by giving £12 vouchers to people in the queues to encourage them to return on another day. It is sure that there will be internal investigations and lessons learnt.

When planning a sales promotion:
  • Identify your aims and objectives – is it to increase sales, reduce surplus stock or launch new product / store?
  • How long will the promotion run for – set the timescales
  • Who qualifies – agree the criteria
  • How to buy – in the case of Build-a-Bear maybe a better solution would have been for members to apply online in advance (like a concert ticket) to receive a qualifying voucher or code to take into store within 30 days to redeem.
  • Limits – i.e. 10,000 bears only available across the UK – when they are gone they are gone.

Another sales promotion that came to mind when I was thinking about the Build-a-Bear Age and Hoover Free Flights promotions was one on a smaller scale.

A pub restaurant in the Blackburn area I was introduced to by family living in the area, has a regular offer that diners can purchase their pizza at an equivalent price that they ordered it at i.e. 4.10pm equals £4.10.  It is only available on set week days and only at set times.  A great example of encouraging diners to come in for a late lunch / early dinner at a reasonable price.

When done well Sales Promotions can be a valuable boost to a business – so plan them well!

For help and advice with Marketing activities and Sales Promotions, contact Helen Stott on 0790 3727750 or email helen@marketingdoris.co.uk

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Dave McNicholl, Chief Executive
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