Should You Have a Sale?

Woman sitting on colourful blanket with computer and pug

This article was written by Michelle Weger.

When is the right time to do a sale?

There always seems to be a major marketing “day” coming up.

National Donut Day.

National Hug Your Dog Day.

And, of course, all the mainstream events and statutory holidays. For big retailers, these are all excuses to run sales.

 “You’re Going to LOVE Our Valentine’s Day Sale”

“Boo! Snag These Scary Good Deals!”

“Be Thankful for These LOW LOW Prices!”

… okay, those are not real ad headlines, but they might as well be.

For most small businesses, holding frequent sales will end up hurting you, from a financial perspective.

Running sales and promotions based around holidays, events, and celebrations can also hurt you from a reputation perspective

We saw this recently with the backlash against Walmart for selling Juneteenth merchandise.

LGBTQ advocates have rightly criticized companies for “Rainbow capitalism” – slapping rainbows and pithy expressions on merchandise and running promotions during Pride month.

These companies were attempting to capitalize on something that did not align with their known values. The disconnect was off-putting, and outright hurtful, to many of their customers.  

So should you avoid running sales or promotions or themed product releases based on any holiday or event?

Not necessarily.

First put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

  • What does this holiday or event mean for them?
  • Does your product fit with this meaning organically, or will it feel forced?
  • Are you drowning out other people’s voices in favour of making a sale?

For example, if you sell candles and bath products, a Mother’s Day promotion makes sense. It aligns very well with your target customer. The day is a celebration of motherhood where mothers are often encouraged to be pampered or take a break. A candle or bath bomb is a very natural fit.

If you sell handmade resin coasters, a Mother’s Day promotion will strike your customers as a bit of a stretch. Sure, it could technically be given as a gift. But most of your customers will (rightly!) think that it is just a marketing gimmick.

If you run a pet supply store or a doggie daycare, a light-hearted email blast or blog post for “National Dog Day” is an easy content win.

But even if it is a good fit, you don’t have to jump on the bandwagon and run a sale or promotion.

  • Do you feel strongly about the meaning behind the day or event?
  •  Does it align well with the values you have as a company?
  • Does running a sale or promotion at this time make sense for you, financially (or will you be competing with all the big fish for your customer’s attention)?

If you have a well optimized ecommerce store that generates consistent revenue, you can determine when to have sales based on your own inventory and growth. You do not have to be worried about competing with the promos other companies are running, or anxiously checking the calendar for the next sale opportunity. If you want to run a sale, because it makes sense for your business and aligns with your values, you can.

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Michelle Weger - RBC Women of Influence Nominee