In 1853 a Bavarian immigrant brought his dry goods to California to supply miners. He eventually climbed into the pants business, and his “waist high overalls” became the “blue jeans” we buy today. That man likely made simple presentations of his goods to those miners, who chose from his offerings and paid in gold. I suspect that Loeb “Levi” Strauss would be astonished to see the sales pitches of the 21st century.
From my glorious beginnings in the display department of Gimbels Department Store in 1968, to my ignominious ending on the pavement in front of The Miracle On 34th Street store in 2008, I have seen, sold and advertised my way through many sales offerings. In 1986, Associated Dry Goods (ADG) merged its Louisville Ky., department store with Indianapolis-based L.S. Ayres and Co., and that bit of shenanigans brought me to Indy. While laboring at my craft, my art, I misremember hearing someone in the advertising department of my ex-store, Stewart’s, commenting that if a competitor’s store is having a “Big Sale,” then ours should be called the “Bigger Sale.”
Consumers have rejected “regular price” offerings from retailers, who have responded by offering discounts in the form of sales. Since every retail store has a sale, companies competing for the customer’s eye do so by giving their offerings catchy names. L.S. Ayres’ “Anniversary Sale” was a genteel offering compared to today’s slugfest, with “prices so low they’re printed on a snake’s belly!” (I may have made that up.) Shoppers today are bombarded with the “Save All Weekend Sale,” endless “Grand Opening Sales,” “Super Saturday,” “Super Sunday,” (neither of which have anything to do with that “Super” football game whose name may not be uttered by any commercial entity not licensed by the NFL), the “Football Widows Sale,” (a big hit with Bride One) “Goodwill Sale,” “Hot List Sale,” “President’s Day Sale,” and the “One Day Sale” that has a preview day and a post-view day and that old school favorite, the three-day “48 Hour Sale.” And the granddaddy of them all, the “Biggest Sale Of The Year.” Or “Season.” Or “Day.”
By the time this appears in print, many of us will have survived yet another round of sales, or more specifically, one sale held by many. The day after Thanksgiving has come to be known as “Black Friday,” in recognition of the period when retail balance sheets go from red to black. For those of us paying attention in class, an outbreak of commonality of naming conventions was observed. Retailers gave up on the effort to be unique in the naming of their sales; it was “Black Friday Sale” at fill-in-the-address. All over the country (and in the city, too) shoppers were exhorted to come to “Black Friday” sales. And we did! Or rather, great clots of us did. And the best thing is, none of us had to actually wait for a day named “Friday” to begin our “Black Friday” shopping. I mean, how considerate is it of so many stores to offer those “Friday” savings on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And some of the kinder retailers have extended their offerings to November 30th, which is like “Back-To-Back Black” on the Friday offering balance sheet.
I doubt that Levi Strauss had the frantic kinds of sales that we know today. But how boring that must have been, back in the day, to be able to buy your jeans without having to camp out for 18 hours or pepper-spray your way to the head of a line.
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