How Forward Planning Turned A Blizzard Into A Retail Marketing Opportunity

Shopping in a blizzardFor many retailers across the Midwest and East Coast, last weekend's massive winter storm shut down stores and disrupted sales. In fact, the economic impact of the storm was about $850-Million in lost retail activity, according to a recent Washington Post story. You will never fully make up for lost business, but with proper planning you can turn the bad situation into a good retail marketing opportunity. Which is exactly what we did for one of our furniture retail chain clients caught right in the path of the blizzard.

With pretty convincing weather reports, we knew a few days before it happened that our client was going to be hit hard by the storm. We had already sent the following week's promotional TV spots to the TV and radio stations. But knowing our stores would either be closed or seeing very little customers attending this weekend's sale, we started working on a snow emergency strategy. We talked to the client and they agreed, let's create a snow emergency sale and get it to the stations with instructions to have both versions of the week's spots on hand and we'd let them know which ones to run.

Snow saleWhen it comes to retail sales promotions, we all know that the more believable the reason for the sale, the more strongly the customers will respond. This was a legit reason to amp up sales – we lost sales the week before and needed to make up for the loss. So, we created spots that used language like, "Due to last week's storms, hundreds of customers were unable to attend our big sale, leaving hundreds of items unsold. We must move them now!" It's a believable rationale, because everyone knows it's true. Nobody could get out during the big blizzard. Also, the offer rang true to the consumer, because we were offering a bigger discount if you bought a second item – helping us clear out our inventory. 

All this was decided, concepted, executed and shipped out by the time the storm hit. As expected, many of our stores closed at some point during the storm and others were just pretty much empty of customers. We called the stations and told them to run the blizzard sale versions of the spot. Those spots will begin airing tomorrow and put forth a strong believable reason for a good sales offer. It should drive in more customers than would normally come in during this time period. Probably not enough to make up for the lost weekend, but a lot more than would have come in with just a normal sales spot, without the strong, believable rationale. 

I'll let you know how well it pulls after the sale is over, but we expect it to do well. It's an example of how staying abreast of the conditions, whether they are economic, weather or competitive, and being both able and willing to act accordingly can give you a competitive advantage over those who aren't able to react as quickly or aren't monitoring factors that affect your business. 

Mike McClureMike McClure, glad the storm passed below my area.

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