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Retailer-themed super saver events: Do they even work?

Retailers are using themed super saver events to counter the threat from hard discounters, and research shows that higher footfalls and sales mark such events. However, for such an event to be successful, it needs to generate media buzz around the theme, match the buzz through deep and wide discounts, use offer formats like percentage-off discounts or buy one get one offers, and use product display to encourage impulse and bulk buying during the event.

“Up to 50% off on everything!” Such schemes are typical of retailer-themed super saver events. Grocery retailers use these events to compete against hard discounters like

Megamart or Brand Factory. Such events are specific to each retailer in which they mass advertise storewide deep discounts. Typically, the deals have a common theme (e.g., Foundation Weekend Sale) and a common format (e.g., Buy One Get One). Many retailers believe that these events are the answer to challenges like promotional clutter, hard discounting competitors, and buyers’ tendency not to switch grocery retailers. A study investigates such events to answer the question: How effective are retailer-themed super saver events?

The study found that there is an increase in both footfall and sales during such events.

Shoppers buy an average of 8.5% more and up to 21% more for the highly successful events. The large-scale advertising and the theme catch buyers’ eyes, leading to buyers' curiosity and anticipation. The desire to maximise gains through smart shopping pushes up store visits by both current and new customers. And offers that meet their expectations encourage higher sales.

The success of a retailer-themed super saver event is determined by deal format (e.g., BOGO, percentage discount), the number of products featured in the event, discount depth, amount spent on advertising, and media buzz of the theme of the event. Using a common theme and format across the board leads to synergies that are especially high for events with higher media buzz and a larger number of items being offered.

However, regular buyers might reduce purchases before and after the event. Before the

event, they buy less in anticipation of a heavy discount (referred to as a pre-promotion dip). Later, they buy less because they stockpile a larger inventory through bulk buying during the event (post-promotion dip). On the other hand, new customers visit the store more often in the weeks following an event as they try to familiarise themselves with the store’s offerings. Their basket sizes, though, are smaller. Overall, the net impact of such an event on sales is a slight increase of about 1%.

The study has important implications for retailers as it shows that super saver events

definitely lead to benefits in terms of gaining/regaining customers and in-store purchases. Though there is only a small positive impact on profit, these events are a powerful defence tool for retailers as they prevent a dip in sales and buyer volumes. To leverage the potential of such themed events, it is essential to create a balance between the promise and the actual offering. Retailers should include a sufficiently deep discount and a substantial number of products within the scope of the event for buyers to find it worth their while.

Moreover, media buzz about the theme (promoting the promotion) is critical to the success of such super saver events. So, retailers should create a unique and easy-to-recognise theme and work to make the theme go viral. Regarding format, percentage-off discounts and BOGO schemes appeal the most to buyers, so retailers should utilise these two formats extensively.

Finally, to mitigate the possible negative impacts of lower sales before and after the event,

as well as the potential hit to the bottom line due to event expenses, retailers should capitalise on the exploration and novelty benefits of such events. They can use the physical layout of the store along with attractive displays of discounted products to encourage impulse, hedonic, and higher-value shopping.

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