"White sales tend to be some of the least productive advertising dollars I spend," says Jim Whitehead, divisional merchandise manager at Burdines.
A key difficulty with white sales in the '90s is distinguishing them from the myriad promotional events held throughout the year.
"White sales are still profitable for us, but they tend to blend in with all the other promotions," relates a DMM for a regional mass merchant.
Indeed, unlike everyday promotional events, white sales shift the spotlight to the home textiles department, giving it an opportunity to showcase a broader range of merchandise and make a greater impression on the consumer.
"White sales give home textiles departments a chance to stretch their bounds a little because they have more pages in those vehicles," the manager says.
Federated's department stores use fashion as a means of distinguishing white sales from everyday promotion.
A few years ago, Federated management considered offering coupons for additional percentages off and other promotional gimcrackery in an effort to make white sales more productive.
Adds a DMM for a regional department store chain: "White sales tend to be more fashion-oriented than other sales, but they are still planned to do volume.
Another new take on white sales is to link them with promotions in other areas of the home, such as furniture and housewares, to create a total-home event.
Federated runs white sales in the second and fourth quarters -- usually in May and November, although the Rich's and Burdines divisions run additional white sale events in the first and third quarters.