Metro Vancouver retailers' marketing gets innovative

New wave of sales gimmicks aimed at drawing repeat customers into stores
Reckless Bikes owner Paul Dragan has started giving customers a discount – equal to the value of a parking ticket – on any adult bike in the store if that customer brings in a receipt showing that he or she received and paid a parking ticket | Chung Chow

Vancouver retailers are devising quirky promotional campaigns to lure customers into their stores.

The campaigns are not as titillating as the one that Lululemon Athletica Inc. (Nasdaq:LULU) launched in October 2002, when the yoga-wear chain promised to give $200 worth of free clothing to the first 30 people who stripped completely naked for 30 seconds and stood outside the chain’s then-new Robson Street store.

But the campaigns are likely more effective because they are designed to attract people who are likely to be repeat customers.

Reckless Bikes, for example, has started giving customers a discount – equal to the value of a parking ticket – on any adult bike in the store if that customer brings in a receipt showing that he or she received and paid a parking ticket.

“Every time I received a parking ticket, it felt like I was just throwing money away, so I wanted to help others avoid feeling the same way by offering some sort of a silver lining,” said Reckless Bikes owner Paul Dragan.

Attracting frustrated vehicle owners who are annoyed at having to pay a parking fine makes sense for Dragan because those are people who could be motivated to buy a bike to avoid future parking fines.

Then there’s a promotion that clothing retailer Dish and Duer is running.

Visitors to the store can pick up a card that resembles a tic-tac-toe sheet, except that there are 25 squares instead of nine.

Each square contains an activity. Customers are asked to get a photo of themselves completing each task mentioned in the squares. They then have to post the photos on Instagram while tagging each one with @DuerPerformance and #DuerAdventure.

Activities include cycling the seawall, playing pitch and putt and climbing the Grouse Grind.

If customers can connect five squares in a row, they will be given a free pair of pants.

“We had a ton of redemptions on it today,” Dish and Duer public relations co-ordinator Stephanie Newell told Business in Vancouver on July 20.

“We do a lot of brainstorming sessions with our marketing team, and a month or two ago someone mentioned that it would be fun to do a big scavanger hunt. We tossed around a lot of thoughts to figure out something that we could actually do that would be a good representation of our brand.”

Newell said athletes are Dish and Duer’s ideal target customers because the company’s pants stretch and feel comfortable during activities.

If the promotion encourages athletic people to tick some boxes and get a free pair of pants, the company hopes they will like the pants so much that they will buy a second pair.

(Image: A promotional card that outlines activities to do in Metro Vancouver in order to earn a free pair of pants | Glen Korstrom) 

“It’s a huge benefit if a company can come up with a quirky campaign that is positive, innovative and reflects positively on the company,” said Retail Insider Media owner Craig Patterson.

“The campaign has to be positive and not negative because some companies could come up with a campaign that could be seen as being unprofessional or racist or sexist.”

He also warned companies not to imitate the Lululemon promotion that marked the opening of its Robson Street store 15 years ago.

“That’s dangerous because you’re encouraging someone to do something illegal,” he said.

“Public nudity is still illegal, right?” 


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