Mary Wilson could not believe her company was suddenly facing a competitive threat. For years, her small retail shop, called Red and Purple Adventures, was the only store in town catering to members of the city’s numerous chapters of the Red Hat Society. Now, a rival firm had opened up a competing outlet across town. Mary knew she had to work harder and smarter to keep an edge in what had always been a prosperous business. The Red Hat Society was formed in 1998. In 1997, Sue Ellen Cooper, a resident of Fullerton, California, on vacation in Tucson, Arizona, bought a red fedora at a thrift shop. She was acquainted with a poem, called “Warning,” written by Jenny Joseph. The poem is about an older woman wearing a pur- ple dress and a bright red hat. The poem advises older women to free them- selves to be silly and have fun. Bright, daring clothes are the order of the day. Sue Ellen Cooper was so enamored with the concept that she began giving red hats and copies of the poem to friends as birthday presents. Soon after, the Red Hat Society was born when the group got together for tea. Sue Ellen Cooper’s credo for the Red Hat Society states: “We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next.” Besides red hats, members of the Red Hat Society wear purple outfits. Those who join the Red Hat Society before the age of 50 adorn themselves with pink hats and lavender clothes. Most activities for members of the Red Hat Society are scheduled by individual chapters, with a heavy emphasis on fun- loving events. Mary Wilson had been selling both licensed and unlicensed red and pink hats and gloves along with purple and lavender outfits to the under- and over-50 women’s crowd for several years. Her quirky store included not only clothes and hats, but also jewelry and perfume. Mary always had fresh pastries available for visiting clients. She served tea to any- one who wished to stay for a while and visit. Light “oldies” music from the 1930s, 40s and 50s played in the background. Mary always believed the key to her suc- cess was a warm, friendly atmosphere that was highly compatible with the goals of the Red Hat Society. The new competitor in town took a different approach. The company’s advertisements featured low prices and specials. Mary also believed the other store had a better location in a small but busy shopping mall where parking was easier to find. She worried new Red Hat Society members would be enticed by convenience and price. Although it made Mary uncom- fortable, she knew for the first time that her business had to be more than just warm and friendly. She needed a competitive marketing strategy to fight off this new threat.
1. Conduct a promotions opportunity analysis for Red and Purple Adventures.
2. Identify the market segments that Red and Purple Adventures must continue to maintain.
3. Describe the ways to reach Mary’s key market segments effectively.
4. Should Mary expand her business to the Internet and sell her merchan- dise nationwide via e-commerce?
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