Observations from the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale

I had an opportunity yesterday to attend the Vera Bradley outlet sale in Fort Wayne, IN. If you’re not familiar, Vera Bradley is a design company best known for its quilted handbags. The Vera Bradley outlet sale is held every year in April, at a huge arena in Fort Wayne and goes on for several days. The first day of the sale is private and requires those who are invited to register and buy a ticket to get into the sale. The next few days are open to the public, and I am told the place turns into a madhouse, where customers wait in line for hours just to checkout.  Customers are given large pink trash bags when they enter the sale too stuff with all of the products they can fit (I saw several people with multiple bags full, seriously I have never seen so much consumption of merchandise in one place).

My main point of this post is to pose the question, how does this event elicit so much consumption? In reality, the prices offered at the sale aren’t really that much different than what you can get from in-store or online promotions.  My theory is related to my previous post about time pressured sales. By hosting this “big event,” people feel that it is their one opportunity to get great sales. They are given only three hours to shop, so feel pressure to pull the trigger on products they might not normally purchase given more time to evaluate. The huge crowd that this event draws in is also a factor in the extraordinary consumption of the masses. The crowd adds more pressure to grab the really good items before they’re gone.

All in all, I think that this is an extremely successful strategy that other retailers should take advantage of. All of the people working the sale are volunteers, so the whole event is done at a low cost to the company. It also offers customers a great opportunity to buy gifts. With an opportunity for “great savings” (whether they are actually great or not) customers can buy all the gifts they need for the whole year (and many do!), which means VB just got all the sales from the other retailers that these consumers would have gone to not given this opportunity. 


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