End of Season Sale (EOSS) is now a trend among the apparel retailers in India. It is one of the discount sales techniques adopted by the apparel retailers. Many consumers are looking forward to make their purchase during the EOSS. They postpone their purchase till the EOSS being offered by the retailers. These type of consumers are very high value conscious consumers. It is a magical word which attracts a customer to the store like a bee to the flower. Ever wondered what would be possibly going through the customer mind during the End of season sale? What goes into the mind of the consumers during the EOSS purchase. This article analyses the possible consumer psychology behind the EOSS.
End of Season Sale (EOSS)
It is a stock clearance sale offered by the apparel retailers before start of the next apparel selling season. Earlier days the stock clearance sale was done yearly once at the end of the particular accounting year. But nowadays it is being given at the end of the particular selling season. Apparel retail sales are mainly based on selling seasons that prevail in the particular country. The selling season may vary from country to country. In western countries, it is classified as Back-To-School, Spring or Summer, Fall or Winter, Thanks giving, Halloween etc. In India, the selling season is mainly based on festivals and family functions. It is like Deepavali, Christmas, Ramzan, other religious or local festivals, Back to School, marriage seasons, etc.
The concept behind the EOSS is that nowadays the fashion change occurs rapidly and a fashion by the end of the year, the fashion may not be a favourite one. The fashion product life cycle is also becoming shorter so it is no point keeping the fashion for normal sales till the end of the year. It also incurs unnecessary stock carrying cost and also occupies the store or selling space which is one of the important resources for the apparel retailers. So to make effective and efficient retail sales, the apparel retailers adopt the technique of EOSS. It is also very much beneficial for the consumers particularly those who are fashion conscious but at the same time having very high value consciousness. The discount percentage varies depending on the type of apparel and it is typically in the form of "Up to 50%" or "Up to 70%" etc.
During the EOSS, customer perceives an increase in utility from his disposable income than during the off-discount period. Hence, an illusion often gets created in the mind of the customer that there is an increase in his disposable income, though in reality there is no actual increase in his income. For example - a disposable income of Rs.1000 allows him to purchase one pair of jeans. While during EOSS with 50% off for the same pair of jeans, the customer is left with an additional disposable income of Rs.500 even after the purchase of jeans. Thus, while the disposable income left with the customer after purchase during the off-discount period is nil, during EOSS the disposable income left with him after purchase increases by Rs.500. Therefore, the customer perceives an increase in his disposable income during EOSS owning to his savings. As a result the average price sensitive customer entails greater utility for the same merchandise during EOSS.
This 'virtual income effect' often acts as a triggering factor in increasing the footfall inside the store. But this trigger factor alone is insufficient to convert the footfall into successful conversion rates. However an important factor overlooked by most of the retailers during the EOSS is the "saving "mentality of the customers. The customers don't just look for the cheapest; they look for the best bargain.
Many brands often unintentionally intimidate potential customers with their price. The average customer perceives EOSS as an opportunity to indulge in brand touch-point & experience the brand which otherwise is regarded as "unattainable" for him. Thus for a potential customer who has an esteem regard for the brand, the intimidating factor - Price fades away during the EOSS. Here, the brand intimidation gets converted into a positive brand attitude which in turn builds a customer-brand relationship. As a result EOSS often result in new customer acquisition. But this again depends on the perceived brand-value & price-discount utility to the customer.
EOSS & the Need for Customer's Assistance
Just as a lost traveller on a journey, the customer could pretty much get lost during an EOSS. Here, the visual merchandising (VM) of the store could often act as a road sign to the lost traveler - the customer. The more interesting the VM of the store, the more relevant the "road sign" to him & more likely that he will spent time inside the store. The next relief for the confused customer often comes in the form of an efficient sales associate. A good sales associate could effectively ease the first brand interaction & brand experience for the customer inside the store. Since EOSS reduces the price-intimidation of the customer towards the brand, the attention must be paid to the relativeness of the brand to the customer.
The customer's esteem should equate to the brand's esteem perceived in the mind of the customer. Only then the footfall during EOSS could be converted into successful conversion rates. This relativeness mainly stems from the customer's esteem need or belongings need. On contrary, a store with no proper "road sign" & "relief measure", crowded with merchandise & customers creates a negative impression in the mind of a lone shopper as he feels his social need of sharing/confiding opinion on particular merchandise is not fulfilled, thereby leaving the store empty-handed.
Though EOSS may be a lurking factor for an increase in footfall, most retailers overlook the "Bargain/Opportunity cost" involved for the customer. While brand loyal customer may not necessarily be a fan of EOSS, it is the less loyal customer who looks EOS with great hope. For multi-brand retailer, EOSS is a season to play with caution as competitors exist to lurk away the customers with their attractive discount percentage.
The recipe for EOSS
So what is the simple recipe for a great EOSS? Well retailers, get your road signs (VM) and relief measure (sales associates) geared up for the lost customer, make sure to have the vital P's right -Product (in terms of size, variety & quantity) Price, Place & Promotion at the right time. Thereby providing customers with a "great bargain" they cannot refuse.
EOSS technique is like a win-win situation for both apparel retailers and consumers. It is becoming a successful formula for the apparel retailers. This provides effective cash inflow to the business, which improves the operating efficiency of the retailer. In future innovative ideas may be incorporated in to this sales promotion technique so that it would attract more customers and provide increased stock and sales turnover.
The authors are associated with the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kannur.