Giveaways Bring Brisk Business to Department Stores

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Retail marketing expert Pearl Mintzer says big retailers have themselves to blame for sagging sales.

Retail marketing expert Pearl Mintzer says big retailers have themselves to blame for sagging sales.

“Retail marketing expert Pearl Mintzer says big retailers have themselves to blame for sagging sales. The big stores are too slow to pick up trends before they peak,” says veteran designer, president of New York-based L & M Marketing, Pearl Mintzer. “Gift-with-purchase giveaway promotions spur sales only when they are on-trend, and large American retailers move so slowly they often miss the trend, and promos fall flat.” Speed is of the essence, but Mintzer also see other reasons for continuing sluggish retail sales.

She asks, "what’s the magic word that never fails to lure droves

of shoppers into retail stores for products they might otherwise ignore?"

The word is free.

No one in the retail industry knows that better than marketing expert Pearl Mintzer, founder and design talent behind L & M Marketing, a small company with multi-million-dollar billings that’s the best-kept secret weapon behind specialty marketing concepts for retail giants like Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Marshall Field’s.

L & M creates promotional packages, gifts-with-purchase – GWPs in retail-speak – luxury items the consumer takes home absolutely free when she buys such target products as cosmetics and store gift cards.

GWPs and PWPs (purchase with purchase) may be classic marketing techniques that are equally loved by retailers and their customers, especially women, who “just can’t resist an offer for free,” Pearl says. But she has taken the concept to dramatic new dimensions since she and partner husband Chuck Mintzer launched L & M Marketing in l984.

Pearl not only develops the original individual marketing concepts, she designs the actual products, and – here’s a major difference – follows through to manufacturer and deliver them at astonishing speed, say, six weeks from first-thought to the consumers’ hands.

“Corporate America moves like a battleship in a mothball fleet. We move like a sailboat,” Pearl explains. “They have so many bureaucratic layers to go through they can’t get a decision in time to take advantage of trends.”

Savvy store executives have long skirted their own in-store log jams, deputizing L & M to work behind the scenes to expedite their marketing programs. Speed is a key ingredient in the L & M success story: the gifts have to be “on-trend,” as Pearl says, something in-style that women really want. “Because I can work quickly, I can catch the trends,” she explains.

A former Brooklyn art teacher who was “tired of being laid off when school budgets got tight,” Mintzer built a successful career in New York’s jewelry business before starting her own marketing company.

“I go on gut instinct. I know what will appeal to women: mainly intimate, personal things that look up-scale and trendy,” she says. The trick she’s mastered is to “catch the trends just before they peak. A product has to be hot, but not too hot” to make a desirable GWP or PWP, she says.

Pearl’s highly skilled “wetted finger in the winds of fashion” has resulted in hot products like the charm bracelets she customized with Lord & Taylor’s signature motifs this fall, and the jelly bags she turned out in time for last year’s craze.

Successful products must also be finely detailed, look and feel weighty (her jewelry does), and be imaginatively presented – “Presentation is all,” Pearl says. L & M is also known for its quality packaging and presentation boxes, such as their packaging for Marshall Field’s, and the fabric boxes she’s designed for Macy’s.

Then, there’s the matter of cost. Pearl protects her clients here, but hints that deeply cultivated alliances in China allow her to bring most products in at the $4-and-under range, a major factor when gifts are freebies.

It also helps that the numbers are huge. Think 32,000 sets of velvet holiday boxes for Marshall Field’s; a half-million bags for Estee Lauder; the l0,000 shawls she had to design, manufacture and deliver in a flash when ULTA beauty products’ management team realized that women in Florida wouldn’t go for their planned scarves and gloves promotion.

“Late deliveries are our specialty,” says Pearl, who has more than one story to tell about last-minute phone calls from desperate in-store marketing execs. Like the time a retailer’s entire holiday promotion, 200,000 robes, got stuck in customs.

Pearl to the rescue: the call came in at 8 p.m. on a Friday night, she remembers. Three weeks later, she delivered 175,000 sets of cubic zirconia jewelry, a brilliant stand-in for the still-stranded robes.

And a minor miracle of technology, to boot: “That many CZs didn’t even exist,” she says. “We had to manufacture them first.”


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Rose Gilbert
RBG Communications
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