As a shopkeeper but also a bit of a girls’ girl, I have to admit that I do always feel a bit deflated post-Valentine’s Day and it’s nothing to do with the amount of cards I receive, although there are less of them since the police collared my stalker.
As a result of a little soul searching, I’ve concluded that it’s down to the fact that the next exciting dates in my retail and personal calendars are just too far away.
After the joys of summer, full of holidays and parties, the new autumn fashions arrive, then it’s Christmas, the January Sales and, finally, Valentine’s. After that, the months seem to drag, until summer – however damp or late – arrives to renew our optimism.
God bless us all for trying to cajole some retail excitement out of Mother’s Day and Easter, but these rarely do much for any of us – unless you’re flogging chocolate or flowers.
I mean, Mother’s Day is all very well-meaning, but most mums could do without yet another day that reminds them that they’re a housewife, taxi service, washer woman and cleaner whereas, once-upon-a-time, they were the bright young thing in the office by day and his lover by night.
We’ve run a Sex Not Socks campaign for Father’s Day before, in the hope that the wife of the father of her children would resist the urge to buy anything with “Dad” written on it from their little ones and treat him instead to a night without the kids, but with her in something sexy from Ann Summers. You can but try.
The bottom line is that every woman – and every shopper – needs treats, little surprises or luxuries, to lift her mood and make life sunnier. And we as retailers must make sure she has them, without her having to line up payday or a bad hair day as an excuse for some retail therapy.
So what luxuries am I talking about? For me, luxury is more time. Not just to oneself, but also with something. For too long now, everything we’ve bought – from dresses to DVD players – has lasted less time than the thing it replaced. And we haven’t minded. People have talked about disposable clothing as if the cheaper prices and inferior quality are a good thing. This can’t be sustainable, so we shouldn’t encourage it.
So, how about, as an alternative, we make March the upgrade month: buy the cheapest, get the finest.
Instead of cutting prices, as we do in the January Sales, let’s change the emphasis in the value equation and give our customers a taste of the good stuff by giving them better quality. When they buy cotton, give them silk. When they buy Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, give them a seat on a Virgin Galactic flight into space.
If we don’t give our customers a chance to reach for the stars they might never bother, which will leave us all squabbling for pennies in the dirt.
Jacqueline Gold, chief executive, Ann Summers