Saturday, January 28, 2006

To Sale or Not to Sale?

As most of our readers know, this is our first year of business at Greenjeans. As such, it is our learning year, our year to pay attention and learn from our successes and mistakes. Lately, we are trying to understand what January has to teach us. And it seems to come down to one question: to sale or not to sale?

Here's what we've noticed: shoppers are out there, pacing the pavement during these mild January weekend afternoons, but as they peer through shop window after shop window they seem to be looking for just one sign: SALE. The bigger the better. It's as though items don't even exist if they don't have some kind of markdown tag on them. I understand this -- my Mom, who loved a bargain, taught me long ago never to buy anything at retail price and always to start at the back of the store when shopping. And yet, we have not offered the standard January Sale.

Now, we were very happy with our sales figures from the holiday season. But now, as expected, sales have dropped substantially. This is normal, and yet we can't help but wonder if we're missing out on something. Like making more sales because we're offering some kind of discount on selected items.

The reason we haven't offered a sale is because when we started Greenjeans we vowed never to offer discounts to anybody, no matter what the circumstances: not to friends, not to family, not to interior designers, not to frequent shoppers, no one. We figured the bargain is that shoppers get to own these fine works of handcraft, period. There isn't any place else in the NYC offering what we offer, so why should we discount anything? Besides, we don't get discounts from the artisans, and we're not going to change how much we pay them because we decided to offer their works at a reduced price. So why would we cut the amount we ourselves get paid just because it seems to be the fashion for retailers?

Well, now I'm questioning all that. I mean, maybe I'd rather sell some things at a discount than not sell anything. If putting a sign in the window that says SALE would really pull in more shoppers, then why wouldn't we do it? We are a business after all.

But what I still find distasteful about the idea of offering a sale is that somehow it feels like it cheapens the works we offer. I mean, yes, we're a retail shop, but we're more like a gallery than a store, and what self-respecting art gallery has ever put a SALE sign in the window? Everything we sell is handmade one-at-a-time by an independent artisan. It isn't turned out by the thousands on a machine in China. Where is there room for a discount?

Also, we don't want to get into that silly game of pricing everything 10% or 20% higher than necessary in order to create space for a future markdown. We're not The Gap. Besides, I hate all that retail sale language that suggests one can save money by shopping. Isn't that kind of thinking a main reason for the American economy's ill health?

But back on the other hand, we are a retailer in the contemporary American market economy. And if post-holiday shoppers only respond to the word SALE, then we're the ones being silly by not catering to that expectation. Aren't we?

This is obviously a tough one for me and Jae. But we'll make a decision about it soon. For example, we are considering running some kind of sale during February just to experiment and see what happens.

So watch our shop window. Who knows? You might just see the sign you're looking for: Attention Shoppers, SALE STARTS SOON! Shop at Greenjeans and SAVE!


Mad said...

I love watching you think on line---

Anonymous said...

If the goal is to give people a chance to see your wonderful handcrafted artisan ojects then maybe a sale is not the right thing at all.

Perhaps you can start your some sort of event that will get through the slow post holiday months. Create some sort of exicting event and invite people to come to the store for the event. Maybe it's a meet and greet with an artisan, offers special products for a very limited time, do an "opening" or some other event. Also, a lot of people hunker down in the winter and look for things to do. What about offerning a workshop or some orther intangible service?