Harish Bijoor, brand-strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults and Devendra Chawla, president, Food Bazaar, Future Group
Can ‘sale’ expand the consumer base of premium brands?
Will consumer walking in for a sale stick with the brand? What has your experience been?
HB: There are two or three ways in which this works. Firstly, a sale attacks those consumers who find it difficult to walk into certain kind of stores otherwise. Stores suddenly become accessible when they spot a ‘Sale’ banner. But in terms of repeat, it’s highly questionable because most people who walk into a sale will want to walk in once again into the store when the next sale is on. So there is a seasonal sale-buying mentality and in every city there are hordes of people who buy only during sales. The best brands come up on sale and everybody knows when it’s likely to be up on a sale. Therefore, they tend to bunch their buying during the sale occasion.
DC: Based on the brand experience, they may choose to stick with the brand or revisit the brand. In the context of premium fashion brands, there will be customers who are very discerning. They will not buy at a, let’s say, ‘End of season’ sale because they may want to buy only the latest in fashion, when new designs/styles and trends come in. For consumers who otherwise would not purchase during non-sale periods, and for whom getting the latest design as they are launched is not important, an ‘End of season’ sale is a good time to buy. And in a manner of speaking, brands can see it as sampling/upgrading opportunity for a new set of consumers.
Are there any factors beyond quality that can help retain the ‘sale’ consumer?
HB: No, not really. It’s very difficult to retain the same consumer because consumers are promiscuous and since every retailer provides a different kind of sale and every retailer offers it at a different point of time. There are people who are called sale vultures. These are people who gravitate from one sale to another never mind the brand, just as long as the brand name is of an equitable pedigree. So whether the sale is at Puma or Levi’s or somewhere else, people don’t mind switching between brands of a certain stature.
HB: All the time. The word sale is an anathema to a luxury brand. Because the moment something goes on a sale it means that there is a problem. And luxury brands must never communicate a problem to their consumers.
Even for affordable luxury brands, I do believe that the moment you are in luxury, affordable luxury, premium brands or super luxury, you should avoid the trap of getting into a sale mentality. For the luxury brand, sale is a four-letter bad word.
DC: Within luxury brands, you have brands which stand for not just quality heritage but also exclusivity. I would put the likes of Louis Vuitton and Hermes in this category, which have never gone on sale. But when we speak of affordable luxury brands that are looking at a larger consumer base, they are available on sale as the season changes. The biggest of premium fashion brands go for a ‘End of season’ sale. A sale promotion if done right does not erode the brand value. A brand has to find context – it could be during a Dubai Shopping Festival when everything is on sale including affordable and luxury brands, or could be a retailer’s promotion across all brands. In such cases, you are becoming accessible to a wider set of customers without hanging a ‘Sale’ sign with your brand name on it.