How Retailers Can Retain Their Relevancy in the Offseason

It was no doubt a tough year for the retail industry in 2015. Based on an analysis of the latest Statistics Canada numbers for the year, retail consultant Ed Strapagiel reported 2015 was the worst year since the Great Recession for Canadian retail sales growth. Total Canadian retail sales were only up about 2.3 percent for 2015 – the lowest annual growth since 2009, the year of the Great Recession. The U.S. retail market didn’t fare any better. According to Reuters, U.S. retail sales rose 2.1 percent for all of 2015, the weakest U.S. reading since 2009.

So how, in this difficult climate, are retailers expected to remain relevant with consumers in the months when their sales are traditionally slow? We approached Anthony Partipilo, Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising for Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club, for his insights on how to keep up momentum during your offseason.

The new Jays Shop flagship store, which sells official Blue Jays merchandise, memorabilia and fashion apparel, exceeded sales targets by over 60 percent in 2015 – its first full year of operation. Located in CF Toronto Eaton Centre, the store experienced strong repeat business and high traffic numbers throughout the year. However, the pandemonium last fall surrounding the team’s first American League East Division championship in 22 years has understandably quieted down.

How the Jays Shop stays relevant during its offseason

Like any wise retailer, Partipilo must strategize to keep up momentum. The Jays Shop does this several different ways by:

  • Introducing new seasonal products and brands
  • Holding autograph appearances with current players
  • Leveraging alumni players to conduct in-store appearances
  • Using social and digital media to stay connected and keep fans engaged

Five reasons why sales and promotions are not always the right tactic

One of the more obvious ways to get people through the door is to discount your products or services, however that retail strategy is not always sustainable.

A strategy+business article, titled “Kicking the Sales Promotion Habit,” says addiction to discounts can be costly for retailers. “The overuse of promotions can become an addictive behaviour that can deeply damage a company’s brand identity.” However, when used in moderation they can boost profits and brand value. “Promotions are a reality in today’s marketplace, but they don’t have to hurt your business. Like so many other potentially addictive behaviors, promotions can be healthy in moderation. Used judiciously, they can boost sales and profitability, while enhancing a brand and creating a competitive advantage.”

Partipilo cautions that when sales or promotions involve discounting the price of your products, they have the potential to:

  1. Diminish the power of your brand
  2. If overdone, influence the value perception of your regular prices
  3. Condition customers to wait for sales and/or discounts
  4. If overused, severely impact the profit model and success of your business
  5. Cause merchandisers to overcompensate by setting artificially higher retail prices with the expectation of a reduced price

How retailers can remain relevant during their slowest months of the year

Retailers should take a thoughtful, strategic approach to their business and have the discipline to stick to their plan with minor adjustments where needed, says Partipilo. He warns against short-term revenue targets, which lead to short-term tactics. “Once you go down that path, it’s difficult to go back and so many develop a culture of reactionary and substantial discounting tactics which begins a long downward spiral,” says Partipilo. “Be confident. Be strategic. Be thoughtful. Be responsible to your brand and your customers to deliver long-term success.”