Japan’s “Lucky Bags” Thrill Consumers

By @ 01/04/12 in Everything, Marketing Trends

After a frantic season of Christmas shopping, many people spend January recovering from retail fatigue. How can businesses energize consumers stuck in a post-holiday haze? In Japan, many brands participate in New Year’s festivities by selling “Lucky Bags” to bring attention, and traffic, to their retail stores.

Lucky Bags, also known as “Lucky Packs” or “Happy Packs,” are essentially grab bags on steroids. Customers come to the store to pick out a nondescript tote full of mystery merchandise, priced with a significant discount compared to the retail worth of the goods inside. Despite not knowing the exact contents, customers are drawn to the bags because they know they will receive quality products from a brand they know and love – there are no white elephants among the bags – for a fantastic deal.

This year, Apple’s packs drew the most fervor, with fans lining up overnight for a chance to grab one of their ¥33,000 ($435) deals. It seems like a lot of money to spend on a bag of the unknown, until you find out what some people received inside. One lucky customer ended up with an 11” MacBook Air (MSRP $999), with a few additional accessories. Another walked out with a baseline iPad 2 (MSRP $499), with headphones, a case and a data card reader. The company also included an exclusive Apple T-shirt and collectible pins in all bags.

Japanese street fashion designers, such as Angelic Pretty and H. Naoto, have seen so much success with their lucky bags that they’ve extended the practice beyond New Years. These brands mark other cultural holidays (and slow sales seasons) during the summer and fall with lucky bag sales that net their customers hundreds of dollars in savings. A shopper can receive pieces of an entire coordinated outfit (including handbags and accessories) for as little as $200, when the retail price of all the items would normally exceed $500.

With the borderline insanity we often see on Black Friday sales, we know American consumers love a crazy deal as much as anyone. If brands in the United States are looking to reinvigorate their consumers during sales season doldrums, taking a page from the Japanese playbook could be a great strategy. With lucky bags, brands engage and energize their audience, clear excess inventory, and jump start revenues during slow periods. And I don’t know about you, but I think a discounted set of workout gear from Nike or a collection of Sephora’s latest products would make pretty sweet lucky bag!