At WSJ, "How to Play the July 4th Sales":
With the July 4th holiday approaching, watch for emails landing in your inbox pitching big sales from retailers on this traditional summer sale day. They’ll start by offering deep discounts. Then on Monday, they’ll press the urgency—Final hours! If past experience is any guide, you may wake up July 5 to find the sale has been extended and is still going.Still more.
As they battle for attention, retailers are increasingly playing a hurry-up-and-wait game, which leaves consumers struggling to figure out when the sales are climaxing with maximum discounts.
Retailers over Memorial Day repeatedly warned shoppers they’d better move fast. “Only Hours Left!” Lands’ End announced in an email blast Monday afternoon. “Last Chance,” Pottery Barn intoned. But by Tuesday, their sales and others’ were still on. “Memorial Day might be over, but our sale is not,” said an email from menswear seller Knot Standard.
Deep discounts for some retailers including Neiman Marcus, which also extended its Memorial Day sale, have lasted virtually all month. Some Fourth of July sales started early. Pottery Barn was advertising 70% off for its Independence Day sale as early as June 23.
Retailers agonize over whether and when to offer discounts, and fashion brands hate sales. They risk teaching consumers to wait for a sale to buy and make it tougher for retailers to sell items at full price. Extending a sale with an email blast creates a potentially even more potent mix: It could make it tougher to convince consumers to buy discounted items because they wait for an even better offer. A shopper who rushes to buy after an urgent email says a sale will end may be annoyed to wake up the next morning to an email saying the sale continues.
“Basically, it’s always a sale now,” says Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore College consumer psychologist, professor, and author of The Paradox of Choice a groundbreaking 2004 book that argued brands benefit from offering fewer choices. “The retailers are killing themselves.”