I had every intention of writing a piece about how designers need to start thinking about sample sales as an extension of their brand. Meaning, customers should expect to experience the same look and feel there as they would in a dedicated store or space. It shouldn't matter that the space is temporary, the fixtures are limited, and the product is marked at 30-80% off. Sitting here at my desk with my marketing hat on...yes, this makes sense. But as I started writing, I began to hear the alarm of my trusty BS meter go off.
My goal in life is to make the world a better place to shop. Commerce is a reality of daily life and retail is a service industry. I just simply don't believe that the market should be packed in with people who have no interest in providing good customer experiences. But some of my favorite shopping moments have been at sample sales. The crowds of people, the gracelessly heaped piles of stuff, the chaos and disorder...I kind of love it. When else is it ok to run around with 10 bags looped through your arms, or with jewelry trays piled high with loot? I've decided that it's ok for sample sales to get down and dirty because people are simply in a different frame of mind and have a totally different set of expectations. You see the same women who intimidate you in chic boutiques and fancy restaurants turn into animals. At a sample sale, everyone is equal. The woman with the designer bag gets the same exact experience as the girl with the H&M bag, and it's great!
That said, there are ways to embrace the nature of a sample sale while making it a little more pleasant and stamping your own signature on it all. Make sure your staff is prepared to handle the task at hand. Make sure there are enough people there to get inventory out on the floor, to answer any questions, and to keep the flow of traffic moving smoothly in and out. Leave the attitude at home. It's amazing how a friendly staff member can calm frenzied and overwhelmed customers (Thank You Rebecca Minkoff support!). Don't forget that sample sales are often a new customer's entry-point to your brand. A good deal will keep her satisfied, but a good deal with great service will keep her coming back.