Sunday, July 31, 2016

Riddle me Retail

"I hear there's a good promotion going on."
Yesterday at the Lovely Boutique Where I Work I found myself trying to explain why I couldn't give a customer a price adjustment on an item she had bought on promotion, now that we were having 30% off all sale. Her eyes were beginning to glaze over as I tried to make clear the difference between promotion and sale. I realized how much this must have sounded like gobbledygook.

None of it is meant to pull the wool over your eyes, but I can see where it's confusing. Herewith a glossary of retail terminology. It all makes sense-- to a point.

On Sale. A Martian landing on earth and needing a wardrobe would surely think "on sale" meant you could buy things in this place. No, that would be "for sale". "On sale" means the item has been reduced from a previous price. This is often called "hard-lined", "hard-marked" or "red-lined"  because we once took a red pen, drew a line through the original price and wrote a lower one in red ink. Nowadays you are more likely to find a sticker or even no reduced price, just a sign reading "40% off regular price".

Promotion. A promotion means the item, usually a group of items, are temporarily reduced to "promote" them to the customer. The price will revert back to normal once the promotion is over (thus they are not hardlined). Nordstrom, which has a limited amount of sale events, famously hold its Anniversary Sale in July. New fall merchandise is temporarily marked down for the duration of the sale. Nordstrom shoppers consider this a big deal.

30% off Sale (actual percentages may vary). Some stores always offer an additional percentage off sale merchandise. It's true, we consumers have come to expect that and are disappointed when we don't find it. Other stores only slap on an additional discount when they really really want to move the merch and/or bring shoppers into the store.

Loyalty cards. These may or may not be actual credit cards, but store loyalty cards often come with an extra perk, such as a percentage off to celebrate your birthday. Depending on the store, this may or may not be able to be combined with % off sale items or promotions.

Shopping passes. I only know one store that has them around here, Macy's. Macy's is a behemoth so there's probably one near you. The shopping pass allows you a certain percentage off store items (with a laundry list of exceptions) for a certain day, often with more savings when used in the morning. This was once found in newspapers but today are more likely an online coupon or app. 

Price adjustments. To bestow fairness to the above proceedings, stores will often allow price adjustments of a certain duration. What you purchased may go on sale, on promotion or be further reduced. The time frame is usually two weeks to receive a credit for the difference. A store really doesn't want you returning, turning around and then buying it back at the lower price, so it doesn't hurt to ask if you've missed the deadline by a little (not a lot).

Online versus retail price. In an ideal world, they should be the same and usually are. But I've seen where they are not, and there doesn't seem any way around it. If the price is lower in the store, it may be because this was an item returned from online that the bricks-and-mortar would like to get out of its system. I'm not naming names, but one place I've noticed this has the name of a fictional country, beginning with B that stands for a tropical fruit.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but I sense your eyes starting to glaze over as well. I haven't tackled discount merchandisers or big box stores, but surely a little knowledge is better than none. Oh and all this is, of course, subject to change.


  1. Ha, having worked in retail for 14 years, this all rings familiar to me - explaining to customers that their sweater set was a special promo last week, and now the cardi alone is more expensive...gah. Great explanations of these often-confusing terms!

    1. Thanks, Sheila. It will probably all have changed when I go to work tomorrow.

  2. Thank you SO much! As a consumer, I've never understood all this. And, okay, I still don't get all the reasoning behind everything, but I now have the theory well enough to navigate the waters. :-)