Boosting business by giving back

High-end retailers such as Macy’s and boutiques at the Forum Shops at Caesars and Shoppes at Palazzo are taking a different approach to spur sales this holiday season.

Smart retailers are turning to “cause marketing,” or philanthropic marketing, that makes people feel good about spending, especially since conspicuously excessive consumption is not viewed as politically correct given current economic conditions.

Wealthy consumers may want to buy that expensive leather handbag or glittery diamond ring, but are reluctant to do so because of the perception that they’re flaunting their riches.

Cause-related marketing is a corporate commitment to contribute or donate revenues to a specific cause based on product sales or other consumer activity. It’s usually a percentage of sales or a flat amount for each sale.

“Charity and cause marketing are just about one in the same,” Pamela Ring of Ring Retail Advisory in Las Vegas said. “It’s a very clever way of helping appease any guilt in a certain amount of the population who has the ability to spend disposable income in the luxury market. It really is our patriotic duty to spend money.”

From a retailer’s perspective, it helps increase brand awareness by driving people into a store who might not otherwise be inclined to shop there. It also creates a positive image for the retailer.

Macy’s has set up its “Believe” shop for children and adults to write letters to Santa Claus, with $1 going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for every letter, up to $1 million nationally.

“It’s really been successful,” said Kim Singleton, manager of Macy’s at Fashion Show mall. “People come and make a special trip to fill out the holiday letter.”

Charitable shopping events were recently held at Valentino and Giuseppe Zanotti at the Forum Shops for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; Bally at Fashion Show for Nevada Ballet Theatre; and Piazza Sempione at Palazzo for Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow. A sign at Ann Taylor Loft at Fashion Show advertises for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Tory Burch, with two boutiques in Las Vegas, has donated to Nevada Ballet Theatre, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Junior League, Shade Tree Shelter and Opportunity Village.

Partnering with nonprofit organizations for shopping events is not only good for business, it’s good for the community, the New York businesswoman said.

“Our company has been so fortunate, and taking a philanthropic approach to our event planning is a great way to give back to our customers and the causes that are important to them,” Burch said.

Karen Iglesias, president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada, said a lot of families are faced with hardships today, from job losses to home foreclosures, and don’t have extra money in their budgets to give back to the community.

“So we’re fortunate to have so many gracious philanthropists who are looking out for Make-A-Wish at this time,” Iglesias said. “It’s a great way for a retailer to reach new customers and a great way for the average shopper to spend and not feel guilty because they’re supporting their favorite charity.”

Make-A-Wish sets a goal to raise enough money to grant a wish, like the $5,000 collected at the opening of Cafe Brio at Town Square. Sometimes children on the wish list can’t wait for the economy to improve. The charity granted two “rush wishes” this week, Iglesias said.

After 20 years of an extended shopping spree, luxury consumers have discovered that the pursuit of material wealth isn’t the answer, Pam Danziger of Unity Marketing said.

“The achievement of affluent consumers will no longer be measured in the things they have and own or by the size of their home or brand of their car,” Danziger said. “They will measure life success in new ways, including what they contribute to society and how they help make the world a better place for all of us.”

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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