Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shoppers Love You When You Liquidate

About now, Borders is being reminded of an old rule of thumb about shoppers.  As Sue Stock of newsobservor.com put it, "Shoppers love you when you have a liquidation sale."
The kickoff of the clearance sale and the buzz it generated was enough to draw hundreds of deal-hunters.


Lines over the weekend filled store aisles, and even on weekdays, busy folks on their lunch breaks are making time to stop by.
[...]
"Prices at Borders stores are higher than they were three weeks ago," de Grandpre said. "People think they're getting a good deal. ... The good deals do come, but they come at the end - six to eight weeks into the sale."
[...]
"Don't allow the hoopla that surrounds a liquidation sale to make you completely lose your judgment," he said.


Before the sales are over in April, discounts will likely reach 80 percent to 90 percent, de Grandpre (dealnews.com editor) said.
Exactly the same was true when Barnes & Noble shut down their last Bookstop bookstore in Houston a few years ago.  I found that shopping experience to be almost like participating in an eBay auction where everyone strives to get in the last second bid that lets them run away with their "winnings."  I bought a few dozen books over a 2-month period as the stock slowly diminished, most of them during the last week when prices were at, or very close, to the lowest levels they were likely to reach.

It was actually a lot like gambling.  Do I buy at this week's price or gamble that copies will be available even cheaper next week?  Is someone else playing the same game with that last copy of  a book I've been watching for three weeks?  When do I push the button?  I was having fun, especially when I found that my tastes were much different than the average Bookstop shopper's in that last two weeks.  That really improved the odds that my books would stay on the shelves a while longer.

I wonder how Borders employees feel about all these customers suddenly appearing in the same stores that have been ignored by book buyers for so long.  It must be a tad difficult for Borders salespeople to be polite to customers who have only come in to pick the stores' bones clean - like the vultures all thrifty shoppers have, by necessity, learned to be.

(If, from their side, Borders is playing the game the way Circuit City and a few other chains have played it in recent months, prices are, indeed, higher on many items this week than they were before the liquidation began.  Many of those 20% discounts being offered at Borders right now might be starting from the full recommended sales prices of items rather than from the, possibly lower, prices those same items were marked at last week.  The result could be that, even with the 20% "markdown," some items are higher priced now than before the sale began.  Buyer, beware.)

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