18 Jan What’s in a Name: Tent Sale or Parking Lot Event?
Every brick-and-mortar retailer understands the importance of sales. Not sales in the “we sold this amount of product” sense, but sales in the sense of “Manager’s Special.” Consumers today are all about finding the best deal on a product, especially big ticket items like spas. So how do you draw these buyers to your specific store and your specific products? You do it by using the right language, language geared toward buyer perception. Decide what you want to accomplish and choose wording that will appeal to your target audience.
A “Sale” vs an “Event”: Defining the Times
So, what exactly is the difference between a sale and an event? According to the dictionary, a sale is “a period during which a retailer sells goods at reduced prices” while the definition of an event is “an occurrence of some importance.” In the marketing world, the phrases “tent sale” and “parking lot event” have the same basic denotation (meaning/definition) in that they refer to some type of selling activity that occurs outside of the retail store. However, as Mark Twain said, “Names are not always what they seem.” In this case, it’s the connotation (the feeling invoked by the word) that really matters (more on this later).
Constant retail sales that range from Black Friday and Cyber Monday to St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo have desensitized consumers to the point where they have come to expect discounted prices all the time.
Remember the tent sales of the 80s and 90s where a business would put up a giant tent in their own lot and fill it with clearance items to make room for new products on the shelves? Today’s tent sales serve much the same purpose. Most tent sales take place over a period of three days to a week, usually include a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and are open the same hours as the retail store. This is what most consumers expect to see at a tent sale:
- Last year’s models
- Scratch and dent products
- Pre-owned spas
- Home show models
- Store demonstration models
- Seasonal accessories like grills, patio furniture, and pool toys
Essentially, retailers used the traditional tent sale to get rid of excess or older merchandise. At an event, on the other hand, consumers anticipate that you’ll be showcasing new merchandise in addition to offering sale items, and they may also hope to find discounts on newer items. Take a parking lot event, for example. It usually lasts one or two days and can be held independently or in conjunction with other community events like festivals, carnivals, holiday parades, charity events, and fairs.
Parking lot events held independently often have a carnival or fair-like atmosphere to draw more people to the sale. Depending on the scale of the promotion, a tent sale may be touted as a “Semi-Annual Tent Event” or a larger inventory reduction event might be called a “Huge Parking Lot Sale.” The important point to remember is sales are perceived (remember connotation?) as common everyday happenings while consumers tend to see events as something special, a unique opportunity that only comes around every now and then (like a couple times a year).
Sale Fatigue: It’s a Thing
If you’re like most spa retailers, or any other retailer for that matter, you are always running some type of sale or offering some kind of product discount. Most retailers do this to the point that the word “sale” by itself has little meaning to the average consumer. Consider these common types of sales:
- Customer Appreciation Sale
- Manager’s Sale
- The Boss is Away Sale
- Wall-to-Wall Sale
- Last Chance to Save Sale
- Mega Sale (everything must go)
- Rock Bottom Sale
- Early Bird Sale
- Backroom Sale
- Beat the Clock Sale
Looking at this limited list, it’s easy to see why “sale fatigue” is a real phenomenon. Constant retail sales that range from Black Friday and Cyber Monday to St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo have desensitized consumers to the point where they have come to expect discounted prices all the time. In fact, one study reveals that 45% of women won’t even bother going into a store if doesn’t offer a 41% or greater markdown. At the same time, these customers are becoming skeptical about whether these seemingly constant “sales” are actually a good deal. After all, what business can stay in business if they are always selling their products at discounted rates?
Doing a couple of larger, special sales events throughout the year rather than running constant, smaller sales every day is a great way to build excitement, entice customers, and increase profits.
What does sale fatigue have to do with tent sales and parking lot events? Just this: Doing more larger, special sales events throughout the year rather than running constant, smaller sales every day is a great way to build excitement, entice customers, and increase profits. Tent sales/events and parking lot sales/events are excellent place to start.
Tent Sale vs Parking Lot Event: Po-tay-toh/Po-tah-toh
When you get right down to it, tent or no tent, what we’re talking about is a sales promotion. Call it a tent sale, a tent event, a parking lot sale, or a parking lot event, the goal is to increase your customer base and sell products. The important point is customers are becoming more and more price sensitive, and they are often prepared to visit multiple stores to find the best deals. By hosting one or two major sales events each year instead of dozens of smaller discounts year-round, you can counter consumer sale fatigue with these tips:
- Offer fewer but larger discounts.
- Only discount products that are poor sellers or products that you have to move in order to make room for new models or items.
- Reserve your lowest prices for your biggest, once or twice a year, sales and events.
With time and patience, what you’ll find is more customers coming to your annual sale to get bigger discounts twice a year than the number of customers who visit your store for smaller sales throughout the year. Eventually the word will get out to people who are in the market for a spa that the best deals on top quality spas, spa products and spa accessories are at your “Annual Parking Lot Tent Event.” You’d be surprised at how many people would happily drive a bit out of their way to take advantage of once-a year prices!