I want to express my idea for a potential program that could help both retailers and brands. Although it’s far from today’s norm, why couldn’t manufacturers with e-commence sites help drive business to their specialty store partners by sending their online customers in a particular zip code a gift card to be redeemed at partner stores in that region? For example, dress shirt brand “D” emails out to its e-commerce customers $50 gift cards with names of brand “D” retail partners where the gift cards can be redeemed. (The certificate could be used only on brand “D” products.)
The recipient then takes the gift card to one of those retail stores and redeems it for product from that specific vendor. In this way, the retailer possibly gains a new customer who maybe never knew this store existed or that it carried his favorite brand.
Of course, there’s a chance the brand sacrifices some margin by turning a direct-to-consumer sale into a wholesale one. But with the current precarious state of department stores, many of our key vendor partners can no longer depend on them for substantial revenues. By default, specialty stores become more important to them.
As for payment details, the retailer would send the redeemed gift certificate to the manufacturer for credit off his invoice or could use it toward purchasing additional product from that brand. Given the new retail playing field, this could be the start of manufacturers and retailers coming together to complete a “Circle of Experience” for that brand. And everyone wins the retailer, the manufacturer, and most of all the consumer. For shouldn’t that be what specialty retailing is about: the experience of showcasing a brand, educating customers about it, and working with your brand partners to take it to the next level.
Edward Steinberg is president of J.S. Edwards Ltd. in Baltimore. He can be reached at 410-653-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.