More and more retailers are trying to create excitement with product “drops”.


Little Sleepies are pajamas and toys for children made from bamboo cellulose.

Bethanie Taylor, 27, the mother of a five-month-old boy who lives in Springhill, Kan. lives, knows she likes Little Sleepies. “But I don’t know if I was brainwashed,” she said.

Demanding parents get their money’s worth: the material is hypoallergenic, antifungal, odorless and has natural UV protection. The items come in thousands of patterns and designs that the company releases weekly. Rather than offering all of these options on the company’s website like most retailers do, Little Sleepies “drops” these baby pajamas at a specific time.

It’s like a sleep kit Size 12 to 18 months is the latest pair of Nike sneakers. Stars & Stripes jammies, perfect for the 4th of July, for example, became available on a Tuesday lunchtime in mid-May. A few days earlier, a camping pattern with bear cubs and huts fell. The company advertises when the drops will take place on social media, where it has more than a hundred thousand followers.

Each collection is limited, meaning there isn’t enough for everyone. Some items sell out in five minutes, so Ms. Taylor, an operations manager at an insurance company, takes extra steps to ensure she can snag what she wants.

“I set an alarm when I know a drop is coming,” she said. “Some other moms even load gift cards into their accounts so they don’t lose the items if the checkout process takes too long.”

The pajamas suit Ms. Taylor’s son better than other brands she’s tried. “My son is very tall and these fit him longer than what I would buy in the store,” she said. “I also like that bamboo is good UV protection. I can’t put sunscreen on my son yet, so I feel good about taking him outside in these shoes.”

Then there’s the undeniable appeal of the hype.

“It’s kind of a mob mentality,” she said. “You see them posting these new prints and all the moms on Facebook love them. It’s like, ‘I love this too, and they only have a limited number, so I have to get it before it sells out.’”

A number of companies, large and small, and in a variety of categories, are capitalizing on ‘the drip’ by releasing limited edition items in small numbers at a given point in time. Some stores opened during the pandemic have only sold products this way. Established companies are moving away from more traditional selling models, such as B. releasing a collection every season or a store with a continuous range of goods and adopt this strategy.

Marketing and behavioral experts say there are a few reasons it’s working, especially now.

“What I like about product drops is that they convey the element of surprise and scarcity,” said Silvia Bellezza, professor of marketing at Columbia Business School. “I think that excites a lot of consumers.”

She said customers are particularly vulnerable to this type of entertainment during the pandemic when they’re bored at home. “An interesting question would be in a year or two, is this a permanent change in business model or will we go back to a more seasonal sales model?” she said.

It’s also changing consumer behavior, said Abigail Sussman, behavioral scientist and marketing professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “It turns a decision you could put off — maybe buy something later or not at all — into something you need to buy now,” she said.

For smaller businesses, selling a set amount of inventory at set times means less overhead.

Before the pandemic, Miriam Weiskind, who lives in Brooklyn, quit her job as an art director to pursue her passion for making pizza. Her dream, like many chefs, is to open a restaurant, but the economics of doing so are daunting. So in the meantime she started The Za Report. Using a teardrop model, she sells her cakes twice a week at breweries and street festivals.

She announces where she will be on Instagram a few days in advance, and there are usually lines waiting for her when she opens. She sells 70 to 120 cakes at a time, and some days they sell out in an hour.

She likes the low overhead and believes this sales model allows her to sell her cakes at higher prices (ranging from $18 to $24). “That keeps demand high and supply low,” she said. “Each cake is special because I don’t make that many of them, so I can ask for a lot more.”

Bear Walker in Daphne, Alabama makes skateboards that have pop culture themes like Pokemon or Marvel Comics. Every six weeks he releases a collection of just 250 boards each.

By creating scarcity, Mr. Walker said he could make his product desirable. “These are high quality, handcrafted and difficult to make,” he said. “If anyone gets one, I want them to know it’s a special piece and a bucket list item.”

Some of his drops are sold out within 45 minutes, which he witnesses live. “We have a big screen in the office with a map of the world on it and you can see people going to the websites and buying things,” he said. “I usually sit there for a few hours and just watch.”

Madison Tompkins, 28, a software developer who lives in Courvelle, Iowa, said the drops are just as exciting for consumers.

When a skateboard drop is scheduled to take place, she blocks two hours of her day from work to make sure she gets the item she wants. “You also have to know how to do it. If you refresh the page every 10 to 15 seconds, the system will mistake you for a bot and block you,” she said. “It happened to me once. I wanted to have a board so fast that I kept refreshing myself.”

Established companies are also trying to get into the scarcity trend.

Kate Quinn, a children’s clothing company like Little Sleepies, had been in business for 16 years and released seasonal collections on its website with little fanfare before it began using product deliveries as part of a new direct-to-consumer model in 2018. Since then the business has grown significantly.

The company has even started to completely black out its website a few hours before a release, causing quite a stir. “People who know how to buy Kate Quinn, understand how it works, and know that you have to be ready,” said Paul Weinstein, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. “It can be confusing for new customers because we do these drops and the first 10 minutes is crazy like we sold out in minutes. So you’re like, ‘I don’t understand what just happened.’” (There’s even a second-hand market for these items.)

Mr Weinstein said one benefit of the drops is that they offer endless social media content.

“There’s always something new to talk about,” he said. “We always have a new print coming out, we always have a new style, a new collection and a new drop.”

Columbia Business School’s Ms Bellezza said one of the downsides is that it encourages more consumption, especially at a time when some in the industry are pushing “slow fashion” and the idea that consumers should “buy less but buy better”. .

“The drops do the opposite; They educate consumers to keep buying, and I don’t think that’s great from a sustainability perspective,” she said.

And she sees this type of consumption increasing. For example, the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia offers a “Night of Indulgence” package that guests can only purchase once a month.

“A lot of different companies are trying to ride the wave,” Ms. Bellezza said. “People are talking about drop culture now.”

Companies that have tried product drops in the past are now finding a much more receptive audience to them.

The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society sells limited edition unique Scotch Whiskey each month. The rare bottles are not sold commercially. They are only available to members – there are 36,000 worldwide – who buy them online or over the phone on a first come, first served basis.

Ben Diedrich, the company’s senior director, used to spend a lot of time explaining the sales model to new members. “They wouldn’t understand why they can’t sign up and buy things whenever they want,” he said.

Well, those talks hardly ever happen anymore. “People understand it now,” he said. “They understand that consumption has changed.”


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