One January a few years ago, a friend and I headed off to Paris. Our mission? To hit the famous Paris Soldes, which take place just twice a year.
Of course, for most Americans, the idea that sales would be state regulated and happen just twice a year seems downright (dare we say it) Socialist, not to mention un-American. Indeed, hardly a week goes by when I don’t receive an email, flyer, or see some web ad promising “the lowest prices of the season”. Kohl’s (KSS) in particular, offers so many 30%-off coupons that the idea of going to the store to pick up some clothes for my son during one of those rare occasions when the coupons are not valid seems ridiculous.
I thought about this as I was skimming the 10-Q that Jos. A. Bank (JOSB) filed two days ago. The company also released earnings on Wednesday that, according to this WSJ story were disappointing, sending the stock down over 7%. There near the bottom of pg. 11 was the disclosure that two men had filed a suit against the company and were seeking class-action status “alleging, among other things, that the Company’s merchandise is perpetually on sale and the sale price is actually the price at which the merchandise is regularly offered.” The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey.
Now, being an artist, Mr. Footnoted doesn’t wear many suits, so my familiarity with Jos. A. Bank is limited to the commercials I see on TV, which, as memory serves, routinely tout their sales. I remember one time about a month ago, when I was working out at my gym and saw an ad on at least three different TV channels touting the sale. Over on Twitter, the Jos. A. Bank forever on sales meme is also pretty popular. On the day earnings were announced, one guy tweeted that “I guess those buy one get 20 free cheap suits campaign isn’t going as planned.”
We only caught the management part of the conference call, so we don’t know if the sales issue or the lawsuit was addressed during the Q&A. But during the first part of the call, President R. Neal Black talked in general terms about the regular sales. “We will continue to ticket our merchandise at fair retail prices based on market competitiveness and we will continue to promote off of those prices to the extent that is required to keep the customer responding.”
Of course, lawsuits are inherently hard to predict, so whether this one amounts to anything remains to be seen.
In any event, sales twice a year like there are in Paris are highly unlikely to ever fly here in the U.S. But perpetual sales are equally problematic and come across as more than a little desperate.
Image source: Men’s ties via Shutterstock
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