A Rear-End View of Retail Marketing

September 2, 2009

Girl: “Does my ass look fat in these jeans?”

Guy (if he’s smart): “NO, NOT AT ALL!!  You look terrific! In fact, I think you should try and eat more, you’re getting a little too thin.” 

I gotta believe there isn’t a guy reading this post who hasn’t had to answer that question or a girl who hasn’t asked it in one form or another.  That’s why I laughed out loud when I read a recent Reuter’s article about a retailer in Sydney, Australia who has installed cameras, or “butt cams” as they call them, in dressing rooms to help women determine the denim’s derriere effect – to the huge relief of guys down under and everywhere.

As we embark on the back-to-school time period stateside, marketers are using some creative techniques to set stores apart from competitors.  Granted, many are social media focused (my favorite being Nike’s iPod application that lets you design a shoe and send it to friends for feedback – LOVE IT), but there are plenty of other “butt cam” examples that retailers hope will lure you into their brick and mortar or online stores — lure being the key word. 

But will it make people buy? It doesn’t seem so.  A recent NYT article reported that stock analysts at Citigroup are predicting a decline in back-to-school sales for the first time since they began tracking the figures in 1995. 

Simply put: People are watching their pennies.  In fact, Google search results for “Wal-Mart and school supplies” is up 160 percent compared to last year.  What a jump!

So what’s a retailer to do if they’re not the low-price leader? Some are banking on e-marketing, some on social media engagement, while others are forming non-competitive partnerships to offer discounts to each other’s customers. It’s too soon to tell what will prove to be the most successful at a time when people everywhere are downsizing their spending habits, but it’s sure to be an interesting look at marketing disposable goods in uncertain times.