A special-edition reusable tote bag featuring images of the late Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla went on sale March 2 for $2 each at select H-E-B stores and online. The bags were reportedly sold out within 15 minutes in some places and were completely gone by mid-afternoon, according to Retail Wire.
Some people who got the bags were selling them on eBay for up to $75, Retail Wire noted, and a number of consumers posted complaints on H-E-B's Facebook page about how difficult it was to get the item. The problems also occurred online after the rush of consumer responses apparently crashed the company's website.
H-E-B announced the new bag on its Facebook page two days before they went on sale and included a video with company spokeswoman Regina Garcia and Selena's sister, Suzette Quintanilla-Arriaga. The Texas-based grocery retailer donated $25,000 to the Selena Foundation, and some bag sale proceeds went to the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Bend in Corpus Christi, Texas.
A significant portion of H-E-B's customer base consists of Mexican-Americans and native Spanish-speaking consumers who appreciate the company's authentic Hispanic food offerings and also the more mainstream items it offers. This recent bag bonanza is just the latest example of the retailer understanding and catering to this important consumer base.
H-E-B is also known for creative marketing, so announcing the availability of the Selena tote bag on Facebook was in character and also a smart move. It gave fans some time to contact friends and family via social media and other methods and let them in on the limited-edition offer. The result was lines through the aisles at the H-E-B stores where the bag was being offered and photos of the high-demand totes circulating around social media sites.
According to Texas Monthly, 71 of the Selena tote bags had sold on eBay for from $20 to $100 each by that Friday afternoon, with 100 more open auctions in process.
Given the wild success of the limited-edition Selena bag, H-E-B is likely to announce more such projects. The company could come out with more and varied versions of the Selena bags tied to certain dates in the singer's life and use the sales proceeds to continue assisting community projects she was known to support — such as stay-in-school and anti-drug and alcohol initiatives and benefits for hurricane victims. These kinds of actions tend to win new fans for businesses and keep current customers coming back.
Most major retailers offer reusable bags in their stores, and H-E-B's Selena promotion is proof that these can become hot-ticket items with the right design and marketing support.
Looking broadly, H-E-B's move is also a reminder of the importance of knowing your customers. Advances in data science are allowing grocers to get an ever-closer look at the people shopping their stores. It's important to use that data not just to tailor the right product assortment, but to create promotions that delight shoppers.