Your Own Personal Retail

Like so many people do this time of year, my husband and I decided to make a change and move. Specifically, we chose to uproot from a one-story house in the Dallas ‘burbs to a three-story townhouse downtown so that we could be closer to the things we enjoy doing, reduce our commutes and make a step towards becoming a one car family. All that being said, we needed to not only downsize but to use our move as a opportunity to clean house and get rid of all the extra stuff the two of us accumulated over the years. And so over the past few months, I’ve been on an adventure in personal retail and resale. With the perspective I have as retail marketer, I would fine tune my approaches, observe potential buyers of my wares and take note, and wonder where brands could authentically fit into this very organic, grassroots shopping arena. Here are a few of my takeaways after diving head first into the world of personal retail.

The Yard Sale

The yard sale is still a mainstay and key route to selling your extraneous stuff in a time crunch. Step 1: Organize and promote your sale. One can still go with a low-key approach of posting a few handmade posters at key intersections the morning of your lone yard sale because there are still people that shop for yard sales by driving around early Saturday mornings looking for said signs. However, in 2015, you can do better without a ton of effort. First off, there’s power in numbers. Multi-family yard sales are typically big draws. Propose a neighborhood yard sale day, or even take it further by partnering with another neighborhood. With just a few clicks on your neighborhood’s Facebook or NextDoor pages to rally the cleaning house spirit, you can exponentially drive traffic to your front door and boost your sales. A simple post on your personal social media can go a long way – in fact, you’ll be amazed at the responses you’ll get, the shares of your post and who of your friends is or knows a yard sale connoisseur. Post on Craig’s List, which has pretty much replaced the classified ads in local papers and it’s free. Post about it on the virtual yard sale groups (more on those later). And just think, if all your neighbors are doing this, too, that network will be spreading the word beyond your reach to their mom groups or their work friends, etc.

Yes, the day of your sale, you’ll still want to put out some kind of signage to direct people to your sale, but for the most part, the leg work is done and you just have to focus on Step 2: Close the sales. In my opinion, cash is still king, so it’s important to be able to make change. Staging your goods is important because only the rare yard saler is going to want to dig around in your stuff. In fact, plenty of shoppers will do the “slow roll” in their car to scope out what you’re selling without getting out of their car. Suggest bundles to make folks feel like they are getting a deal (and it also gets more of your stuff gone).

Even with all that, be prepared to see shopping behavior that you wouldn’t have expected. People will walk away from deals over a difference of 25 cents. I had a shopper spend no less than 20 minutes looking up reviews on Amazon for some of my items – showrooming is not uncommon with brick and mortar shopping these days, but at yard sales? Really? Really. I also had another shopper Facetime his wife for nearly 30 minutes over $2 storage containers, which he ultimately passed on. If I wasn’t in shopper marketing, I probably would have been guilty of an eyeroll or two, but it was all very fascinating to observe the trickle down effect of technology on even yard sale shopping behavior.

What’s in it for brands? Some retailers have already gotten in on the direct connection between yard sales and moving by selling yard sale signs on the same aisle as moving boxes. Organization brands, like Container store, could sponsor National Yard Sale Day (the second Saturday in August) with parking lot events or promote offers to help you stay organized once you’ve decluttered.

The Virtual Sale

There seems to be about a million different ways to sell stuff virtually. From EBay to Etsy to Craig’s List, you can sell your stuff, but much of that depends on knowing your target audience and understanding the medium. Etsy is really more about selling crafted and made products, not so much for selling your old high school calculator. EBay can do instant sales, but it’s still mainly about the auction and you will have to make time for shipping. Craig’s List can be very hit or miss in terms of the kinds of buyers you’ll attract, and I always approach it with caution to never meet anyone alone. These days, you have even more options and even more control over how to sell things online and via apps, but I’ll touch on the one that seems to be gaining the most traction in my opinion, the Facebook Sales groups.

I probably joined my first Facebook sales group a few years ago at the invitation of a friend. It essentially served as a virtual garage sale. You could post a picture of an item, the sales price and approximate location of where it could be picked up. Interested parties would comment and then through private message, work out the details to finalize the sale. Over the years though, it’s become a culture, complete with it’s own language, rules and trends. The dynamics of these groups evolved so much that Facebook even created a new post form specifically for groups to help streamline the essential details of a post and requiring those details before a post could be submitted.

Let’s talk about the lingo. Want and Next comments are enough to solidify your place in line. Porch Pick Up means I’ll leave it for you on my front step and you better leave the money for it under my doormat when you come to get it. PPU means pending pick up, which a seller will post to indicate that the sale is almost done but since sales fall through all the time don’t lose hope entirely. A seller can also comment Bump to send their post back to the top of the group’s news feed to ensure fresh eyes see it. X-posted means you’ve posted this item across several groups, so even if it looks like you are first in line for an item, someone in another group make actually be first. No holds means the seller isn’t hanging onto the item for anyone, it’s a first come, first serve to make the sale.

The trends are fascinating to me. Pinterest inspiration is a big one here. For example, in the last year or so on these groups, I’ve seen a spike in the sale of “project pieces,” specifically rehabbed wooden coffee tables, end tables, entryway tables, and consoles painted in bright pastels or bold colors. Most of the time, these sales are for the completed projects, but there are also plenty of the incomplete “I bought this with the intention of rehabbing it and either my time or my skill level prevented me from actually finishing” pieces. There are bloggers and youtube channels dedicated to teaching people how to bring old furniture back to life with chalk paint and glaze. In the past, people used to go to flea markets to find these project pieces, and now they don’t even have to leave the comfort of their homes if delivery of the piece is included. (Other current trends I’ve seen in these include wood pallet crafts and barnwood/farm tables).

What’s in it for brands? Furniture and craft brands should be looking into this underground network for insights and noting these trends (much like fashion designers seek inspiration from people on the street or dancing in clubs). For instance, I would love to see a long established furniture company like Bassett or Broyhill run a targeted FB promotion that asks shoppers to rehab one of their brand’s furniture pieces from the 60s or 70s for a chance to win a $10,000 living room makeover. It authentically ties into what this audience is already doing, establishes the heritage and quality of the brand, and is prime for social sharing.

The Resales

Consignment and second hand shops have been around for decades as yet another avenue for getting rid of your unwanted items. From clothes to books to furniture to sporting equipment, these days sellers can not only look to brick and mortar specialty consignment/resale stores but also to any number of apps to consign their wares from the convenience of their phone. For my purposes, I went the brick and mortar route for the luxury of immediacy.

Dallas-based national chain Half Price Books, while known for selling new and used books at a discount, is a great resource for getting cash for your old books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, videos and, dare I say, even laser discs. It’s a very familiar process for anyone that ever sold their study books back at student bookstore at the end of a semester. You bring your items in, a store clerk looks them up in their system while you wait in the store and you receive a cash offer for the total of your bounty. Demand and condition are the main factors for determining offer prices. Unless you are trying to sell something special, like a signed, limited first edition Harry Potter, they don’t break it down for you item by item – it’s a lump sum, take it or leave it. Don’t expect to make out like a bandit selling your books and CDs back, but something is better than nothing. Also keep in mind, what they don’t resale, Half Price Books will donate to nonprofits in support of literacy, so you can feel good about where your items are going. (Don’t have a Half Price Books near you, Amazon also has a trade-in program.)

Clothing consignment can be a bargain shoppers dream, but for someone looking to unload unwanted clothes, it can be a little confusing and nerve wracking. So many of these stores are locally-based and have their own guidelines for selecting what items they’ll take and the method for selling, which means every store is different. For my needs, I opted to give national consignment store Clothes Mentor a try. Here, you bring in your items, a store clerk accepts them for review and gives you an approximate time for your estimate to be completed, then you receive a text to let you know your estimate is ready, and upon return, they’ll walk you through what items they want and what they are willing to offer. Based on my experience (and from reviews I’ve read of others’ experiences), it’s completely hit or miss and not much rhyme or reason as to why they want some items over others or offer a certain price. Seasonality and condition can play a roll, but for the most part, they tell you it’s about your items not being the latest style. I was told this about a batch of clothes I brought in and yet one of the shirts they did buy from me, I kid you not, was 12 years old. It’s a roll of the dice, and again, something is better than nothing.

And then there is Good Will. An American mainstay in donated clothing, furniture, electronics, etc, Good Will makes these things accessible to people of all economic levels, but their stores and proceeds also go to support job creation and career education. Any true purge of belongings should involve several trips to your local Good Will, where you can get a receipt good for writing off your donations on your taxes. Win-Win for everyone.

What’s in it for brands? Clearly, specialized brands in the market of resale know their niche and understand their place in the resale market. But with all these burgeoning apps furthering simplifying the resale of not only the things you don’t want (like that sweater your mom gave you for Christmas without a gift receipt), but also of luxury and high ticket items that you may have used once and no longer have a need or space for them. It’s also important for brands to consider the benefits of trade-ins for credits over cash, which ensures the money essentially stays in there pocket but almost always guarantees a greater return as a shopper has to spend more than their credit to get the benefit of spending it all.

Image: Getty

Viral Brilliance

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, viral phenomenon, is teaching us a lot about a lot of things — ALS for one, human nature, masterful fundraising and some things us marketers should pay attention to. It is treasure trove for Cause Marketers and there are some universal truths (reminders) in it for the rest of us.

The request on social media from one person to several  friends to donate to the cause of ALS, while demonstrating their support for the cause/cure by sharing a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice over their heads is the basic premise. Then, the friends who are challenged are supposed to donate, challenge a few more people and post their video proof of their ice bath. And so on and so on.

It is the dream child of every viral campaign to have this much uptick and involvement, so quickly. (for the record, it is not a new concept.  I personally have participated in a very similar tactic (the dunking booth) to raise money for a cause. My friends joyfully lined up, made their donations and then pelted the target as hard they could to send me into the tank of nasty water.

But to my observance, The ALS Ice Bucket challenge is a first of it’s kind in the viral world, engaging so many participants and dollars. Besides the fact that these videos seem to claim every other post on Facebook, the ‘event’ has raised over $62M since July 29, the average gift being only $46.25, for a horrible disease that until now was far less known and funded.

I love the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because it is:

  • Organic and authentic. This does not have the stamp of a corporate or “official cause” on it. ALS is not asking you to dump ice water over your head and donate; your friends are.
  • Fun. The gimmick of pouring ice over one’s head is universally fun, a little outlandish and engaging.  Responses are cross-generational — young, old and in between are into it, challenging each other and helping each other with the videos.
  • Global – the money raised is going for global research and the donations and videos are coming in from all over our small world.
  • Appropriate use of humor and silliness. It has those components in the act itself but still delivers a very sober plea to donate to an important (and decidedly not humorous) cause.
  • Incredibly democratic. The request is one that can be answered by anyone with a cell phone (tripod or friend) and access to frozen water and a bucket. And it is being responded to from everyone from President George W. Bush to Justin Bieber.
  • 15 seconds of fame. It plays to most (non-famous) people’s desire for fame and acknowledgement of being a good person without having to self-promote. The aspect of slight humiliation is endearing and creates camaraderie.
  • Quick. It only takes a few minutes out of our busy lives.
  • Masterful Fund-raising.  The requests are on social media with a huge audience seeing who is being challenged and who responds. So there is peer pressure to participate vs a plea via a newsletter, telethon or dinner.

I think the watch-out is the “me too” factor that is bound to happen, or has already started? Too close a copycat will not be well-received.

Bill Simon, President & CEO of Walmart U.S., Shares His Story

Today, the TPN Bentonville office attended the Benton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund luncheon. Bill Simon, President & CEO of Walmart U.S., spoke at the event. Instead of speaking about how Walmart and the Walmart Foundation give back by supporting the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, it was a much more personal speech.

Mr. Simon was very real and down to earth. He discussed his upbringing in a single parent household with four siblings. His mother never graduated from college, and she did any odd job she could to help support the family. She instilled in her children the value and importance of an education, that being average or being exceptional is a choice, and the importance of giving back. Because of this, Mr. Simon, along with three of his siblings, all graduated from college. Two of them even went on to receive their Master’s degrees. While Bill’s mother never got the chance to earn her own college degree, she believed she earned six- thanks to her children’s accomplishments.

Besides gaining an appreciation for Mr. Simon and his personal story, we were reminded that while Walmart may have its share of detractors, they do give back to the communities in which they serve. Mr. Simon specifically mentioned the $4 prescription program, which he helped implement, as well as the emphasis and importance Walmart places on helping the community – illustrated through their everyday low prices, the practice of hiring veterans and associates without college degrees, and making it easier to shop with one-stop convenience.

The Mall Fountain Reimagined

The fountain at the mall is a destination among the hustle and bustle.  It’s a place of gleeful excitement for children throwing coins (who am I kidding? I still like to throw coins in), a rest stop during a busy shopping trip or a meet up point for friends. Every great mall has a fountain. And now, artist Charles Long has reimagined the mall fountain with his sculpture, Fountainhead, installed at Dallas’s NorthPark Mall. Part of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Xchange program, Fountainhead is a virtual, interactive electronic sculpture that has dollar bills and coins projected on it, which gives the impression of water as they flow down. A zen-like soundtrack plays in the sculpture’s area. Three kiosks equipped with iPads border Fountainhead, each a donation point for one of three charities: Bookmarks, part of the Dallas Public Library located in NorthPark, Dallas CASA and the North Texas Food Bank. Here, visitors can make donations either by dropping coins in a slot or swiping a credit card. A coin will appear on the iPad that donors can flick towards the sculpture, where it makes a virtual splash.

Without a doubt, this sculpture grabbed my attention when I turned the corner at NorthPark. For as much as the fountain at the mall is a destination, it’s also expected and doesn’t change since they’re typically permanently installed, which is part of what makes this so cool. After soaking it all in, I immediately wondered how could this approach translate into something that brands could build on as a promotional show piece – maybe a giant virtual Brita filter sculpture fountain could be set up in Times Square or a huge virtual chocolate sculpture fountain could rain Reese’s Pieces at the NCAA Final Four. Or perhaps, brands could simply sponsor art in their retail space so that every time someone reads the artwork description or stops to make a donation, their logo reiterates brand recognition.

Again, this sculpture is a cool new take on an expected element in a busy retail environment. The fact that three local charities benefit as a result of the piece is a great bonus.

Video and Photo Credit: Emery Martin via Vimeo

Giving Back on the Go

Last week, TPN participated in its Annual Day of Service by volunteering at food banks across the nation.  The Chicago team worked together to unpack, rebag and repack 2,000 pounds of Corn Flakes at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  It provided a break from the office and gave us a chance to do something different for the day.

It also reminded me how tough it is to make time to volunteer consistently throughout the year, outside of our TPN-dedicated days of service.

So I took it upon myself to look into some online and mobile solutions for those of us who want to give back, but may not have the time:

Snoball

Snoball “turns any action into a donation,” by using the power of social media to raise money for nonprofits.  By connecting Snoball to your Facebook, Foursquare or fantasy sports apps, it “empowers individuals to seamlessly integrate giving with living.”

I personally use this program, and each time I check into a restaurant on Foursquare, it donates a dollar to my selected nonprofit.  I also have a monthly limit on how much money I’ll give (I’m a bit of a Foursquare addict and can’t afford a dollar for every check-in).

FreeRice

Owned by the United Nations World Food Programme, Freerice.com has two goals: 1. Providing education to everyone for free, and 2. Helping to end hunger by providing free rice to hungry people for free.

Simply visit the website and answer educational trivia questions.  For each question you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the hungry.  It’s literally that simple.  Monetary support comes from sponsors who advertise on the website.

Charity Miles

Charity Miles, like FreeRice, uses corporate partners to support its cause of allowing users to “earn money and raise awareness for charities by walking, running or biking.”

The app not only tracks activity as any other running app, but users have the power to choose which charity they will run for.  Walkers and runners earn $0.25 per mile and bikers earn $0.10 per mile.

Retail Gives Back

I’m applauding Frederick Anderson and Laura Miller’s upcoming “Park Avenue Garage” — New York’s first Pop-up luxury garage sale. Some of New York’s most notable designers, fashion houses and individuals will be contributing a wide range of goods for the three-day consignment sale that will run from Thursday, December 13 through Saturday, December 15. Proceeds benefit the New Yorkers For Children charity.
 
 The organizers are using some of the great principles of retail to ensure success:
  1. Creating hype and interest by utilizing a limited time only strategy (3 days)
  2. Tap into the excitement around Pop-up retail — shoppers already know what it means and what to do
  3. Cultivate exclusivity by having a pay-to-attend preview sale on opening night
  4. Great value, discounted, one-of-a-kind merchandise
  5. Great packaging. The invitation is cool and likely the space will be too. It looks like something you want to attend.



This event sounds FUN, and it gives back. It’s an experience that you’d like to have with some friends, make an evening out of and feel good about. Everyone — from the donator/shopper, the cause and designers — all come away winners. Retail as a charitable vehicle is not a new idea; but with the pop-up store, cool designers and the sense of urgency, this is retail truly reimagined.

Well done.

 


Pop-Up #Retail for Man AND His Best Friend

Hair-brain scheme? I think not. Some very smart people are helping a local Dallas charity with a fun new pop-up retail idea. 
What do you get when you combine an urban running trail, an ice house, a barber shop, dog groomer and food bank? This. A brilliant promotion that ties behaviors and interests like fitness, pets, grooming and philanthropy. The basic premise: Go for a run with your pet, stop to get a drink at the Ice House — where you can also get a haircut for you and/or grooming for your pooch  all benefitting the North Texas Food Bank
This is #retailreimagined. So if you’re in Dallas with your dog, run on over and experience a Pop-Up Barber Shop! It’s the leash you can do.