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Datacember 15th: Green Monday and the fatigued shopper

Soon, all the Mondays from mid-November through Christmas will have clever, shopping themed nicknames. Then what? Will we move on to other days of the week? Two-4-One-Tuesday? Thirty-percent-off-Thursday? Free-shipping-Friday?

In case you missed it, yesterday was “Green Monday.” Green Monday was invented by eBay way back in 2008, when their internal data team predicted that the second Monday in December would be bigger than Cyber Monday, thus prompting the site to promote the great deals they had on offer for bargain-hungry shoppers. Recall that in the fall of 2008, we feared we were on the precipice of another Great Depression. So, saving a few bucks was key and shoppers were lured into action with sale prices.

Fast forward to 2015, when the holiday shopping season seems to start the day after Halloween. That extended time has been good for shopper engagement and revenue. In fact, data from predictive analytics firm Custora shows that Green Monday was up 15.4% year over year. But I have to wonder if consumers are getting sale fatigue.

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To some extent, I think retailers may have lost the trust of shoppers. I don’t mean that consumers don’t trust their wares. They do, as both the engagement and sales numbers show. I mean they don’t trust the sense of urgency that sale prices and promotions are meant convey. They don’t believe that best and final is really best and final. And OK, even if it is, they have a great backup plan in a pinch — they’ll just go to Amazon, where they can bargain hunt and ship at the last minute.

Let me give you an example. On Monday, Money (a division of Time) listed the Gap as one of Green Monday’s top  seven deals, since the Gap was offering 40 percent and even free shipping for orders over $50. Nice! But, if last year’s special offers by the Gap are any indication, this “deal” was essentially reheated leftovers from Thanksgiving. Turkey soup Forty percent off again? Their Facebook archives showed these deals:

Notice a pattern? Lots of sales in the 40 to 50 percent off range. If you’re a loyal shopper, you were seeing this on Facebook, in your inbox, in the store and on TV. At some point, that has to sink in and make you simply assume you can get 40 percent off when you want it.

Lauren Freedman, founder of the Chicago-based e-tailing group, put it this way:

“What I’ve learned, anyway, particularly as a consumer, is you figure out the cadence of the retailer. So I know a particular retailer, they always have, like every few weeks, a 20-percent-off sale. Or at Gap, they’re going to have 40 percent or 50 percent off.”

gap sale

Maybe this sale saturation is by design. After all, we do see those “browse” and “buy” days through the holidays. So adding another (insert clever name) Day to the calendar could add another “buy” day. But they come at a cost to margins, marketing budgets and perhaps, consumer trust.

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Santa picture by James Hall used under Creative Commons license.