Sears Canada Gambles On An Online Group-Coupon Deal That Excludes Online Customers

Cross-channel retailing doesn't display its weird moments any more clearly than this: Last week, Sears Canada offered a group-coupon deal ($25 for a coupon good for any merchandise worth $50) through Canadian Groupon competitor Buytopia.ca. All 5,000 vouchers sold by the first afternoon of the three-day deal, so the promotion was clearly a success. But Sears wants the coupons to pull customers into its stores now, during the lull before back-to-school shopping starts. As such, the coupons specifically exclude online sales—they're good in-store only. Unfortunately for Sears, and as usual with such deals, the coupons are good for 90 days—long past Sears' target shopping window.

That means the promotion could be a sell-out success and a complete failure if coupon buyers decide to just wait a month until they would have hit the stores anyway. The in-store-only requirement could also irritate the online-oriented customers Sears was targeting. And even if a group-coupon promotion works for the first time with a big retailer that is not a discount apparel chain, sorting out why it worked may be impossible. There may just be too many built-in contradictions for Sears to be able to work out whether this is a case of highly tuned cross-channel retailing—or just dumb luck.

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