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Back to School Lessons

by Randall Craig on August 19, 2008

Filed in: Blog, Learning, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Motivational, Planning

Tagged as: ,

Why is it that retailers have back-to-school sales starting in August? They know that clothing purchases are made in the 3-4 weeks immediately before the first day of school. (They also know that few customers will purchase clothing a mere day or two beforehand.) Stores make their buying decisions months in advance. Manufacturers make their products even earlier.

After the school selling season is done – maybe a week or two after school starts – the retailer will stock the next season’s apparel and the “old” stock is often sold at a loss.

Surprisingly, there is a lot that we can learn from retailers. For example:

  • There is a shelf-life for opportunity. If the window of opportunity is missed, then it cannot be resurrected.
  • Just as a retailer’s purchases may not sell well, there is a certain risk that our training might not meet the market requirements – but this isn’t an excuse not to prepare ourselves for the next stage of our careers.
  • Learn from our mistakes. Just because we weren’t the right “merchandise” for a particular opportunity, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ones where we are just what the customer wants.
  • Like the retailer’s different buying seasons, there are career and work-life balance activities that should happen at different times of the year – and can be calendarized.

This week’s action item: Not everyone thinks like a retailer – or feels comfortable drawing lessons from them. But it is a great example of how we can learn from just about every business – or person – we come in contact with. This week, choose an organization – or a person – and write down their lessons for you. Back-to-school doesn’t just mean great sales, but also great lessons.

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)




Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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