The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.


Seth Godin’s Creating a clearance sale culture got me thinking. That’s what reading Seth does. It gets you thinking.

What it got me to think about didn’t have much to do with what Seth was writing about. His point involved consumer psychology regarding price-point buying decisions in good economic time and not-so-good economic times. But, I was captivated by the phrase “clearance sale culture.”

We are not creating a clearance sale culture, we’ve been in one for decades. Walk into any Walmart and realize all that stuff has to move within a few short weeks. All of it, and I’m not talking about Christmas time stuff alone. It is true any time of the year.

Take candy as an example.

It used to be that there was just . . . candy. Except for bunny shaped chocolate and candy canes, the type of candy for sale in July was very similar to the candy available in November. M&Ms were M&Ms year round.

Now, the black and orange Halloween M&Ms are obsolete on November 1st, and the excess has to be moved to make way for the red and green Christmas M&Ms. In turn these must be moved to make room for the red and pink Valentine M&Ms that are soon replaced by the pastel Easter M&Ms.

All clothing except for underwear and bluejeans is seasonal and subject to annual fashion shifts. The Christmas section will shortly be transformed into the garden center, and there isn’t any place to store the stuff from one season to the next. The store itself is the warehouse.

Carmen has frequently told me, and it is beginning to sink in, if I see something I really like I ought to buy three of them because I will never see the same thing again. If you want to replace your . . . whatever . . . forget it. They don’t make it any more. That was last year’s stuff.

I can’t imagine anything losing value faster than consumer electronics. The value of a brand new, in the box and pristine gadget is leaking economic value as it sits on the shelf. The next brand new better, faster, more powerful, smaller, and less expensive replacement gadget is already in the pipeline.

It is always a clearance sale.


Written by Tom Fox

11/30/2008 at 12:04 am

Posted in Marketing, Seth Godin

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