The Moral Quandry of Insider Sales Information
I just saw the order form for one of the two Christmas catalogues we’re doing this year. It’s one we haven’t done in awhile, and I approach this one with fear and trembling. (We had one once where we made an executive decision to dump all the flyers into the recycling bin.)
Every single thing is on sale. I went through the first page line by line and wrote in a number representing the dollar reduction on each title. Some were 5s; some were 3s; there were a few 2s. Those of us in the business are price-sensitive, but not all customers are. The kind of counter-marketing we need to win back the online customer isn’t done in this type of circular; it offers the discounts, but doesn’t hard-sell them the way online vendors do.
Furthermore, I’m not sure we should be discounting in the last quarter. At all.
We’re in a survival mode, and the customers who will come to us will buy a book whether or not it’s $13.99 or $15.99. We’re simply giving away margin.
But that’s not what this is about. My problem right now is that I know all the information about titles going on sale. Heck, we just ordered all this stuff. Why would I want to order it again? (The form says the initial order is due October 1st, but I will be away from the office until Thursday.)
So what do I do when a regular customer walks in and wants to buy Product ‘X”? Do I say, “You know, if you can hang in for six weeks, that item is going on sale” or do I simply write up the sale and smile, and then ponder the consequences when they see it for $5 less in six weeks?
The problem is, Christian booksellers are too honest.
Somehow, I wish I didn’t have to know all this information. I’m holding it back from my frontline staff, but eventually, I’ll have to put them in the loop, especially when Product ‘X’ starts arriving. I guess, I purchased it innocently, not knowing it would be offered cheaper, and now I have to expect my customer to buy it, not knowing it will be offered at a lower price.
It almost creates two classes of customers; and the “early bird” is actually being penalized. Furthermore, since I am putting a ‘hold’ on regular stock purchases of items that are about to become sale catalogue items, I’m creating the potential for inventory gaps leading up to the sale; this in a small store that prides itself on various aspects of superlative service, one of those aspects being having a good in-stock position on items likely to be requested.
Plus, there’s a few items that just didn’t sell the first time out. A book we purchased at 46% off is now being offered at 50% off for the sale. We had no movement on our six copies, so we’ll just have to take a hit on existing inventory. To order more would be foolhardy; throwing good money after bad. In some cases we’re being asked to reduce something by $3, but only being given about 80 cents extra discount. Do the people who do these catalogues on a more regular basis than I — and in much higher purchase volumes — never challenge this?
I think in the final analysis we’re not married to doing the flyer; we just like the idea of doing a catalogue; of having a classy piece to put in customers’ hands that will end up on their coffee tables.
The catalogue itself is a pain in the neck at a time when we need to maximize margin and return-on-investment.