by Margaret Sims
The Bay department store is a venerable Canadian institution, and over my shopping lifetime, I have come to learn that the The Bay is a high quality department store. However, they seem to be moving into discount chain territory by using the old school marketing tactic of the loss leader this holiday season. Large ads in national newspapers promote its One Day Sales. So far this week, there was Monday’s $688 40” flat screen TV, Tuesdays $14.99 price on $50 dress shirts and who knows what deep discounts will follow.
I expect that The Bay carefully weighed the pros and cons of such a strategy, and decided to pursue the promotion as a means to draw consumers into its stores and try to regain lost customers who moved to discount chains during the recession. But as one on their target customers, my reaction is mixed. The Bay has my attention. I have noted the deep discounts. I even flirted with idea of replacing my 15 year old basement tube TV with a $688 Sony flat panel TV on Monday. However, I am also confused and irritated. I am confused about whether The Bay is moving down-market — becoming a discount chain — and confused about whether I should buy an item now or wait for a substantial one day discount. I am irritated that the sales are so short fuse that The Bay is trying to make me drop everything to chase a deal. For me, the convenience of a department store is to reduce the time and transaction cost of shopping, and the idea of rearranging my day to chase a sale is anything but convenient.
Whether you think The Bay’s One Day Sales are a good way to bring customers back to its stores or a deviation from its core brand, one thing is clear: Brands must be careful not to allow a promotion to dictate brand strategy. If a brand’s promotion runs counter to brand strategy, then it risks weakening the brand, annoying the primary target customer and turning its brand’s evangelists into cynics.