On the Scene at eTail: Gimme Those Tax Refund Checks

New York–Marketers are crossing their fingers that when consumers receive their tax refund checks, they’ll spend the money rather than bank it. As part of President Bush’s tax-reform plan, this year single taxpayers will receive a rebate of up to $300, while married couples will receive up to $600. The first checks were sent out this month.

Industry professionals say that consumers tend to view the the refund checks as “found money,” which may lead them to splurge on more expensive or frivolous items that they might not have bought otherwise. In fact, a number of marketers, including Spiegel and Home Depot, are tailoring their marketing efforts to pitch higher-ticket, nonessential items.

Among attendees at the eTail 2001 conference on Aug. 2, Barry Gordon, vice president of marketing for Army and Air Force Exchange Services, said the Dallas-based cataloger/retailer has already started appealing to refund recipients on its Website. “The whole idea is to drive the servicemen into the stores to not only cash their checks but to spend it there,” he says. In addition to mailing 3 million catalogs a year, Army and Air Force Exchange Services has 1,700 retail locations in 35 countries.

Still, not all marketers are banking on the checks to boost sales. “We’re not expecting any big lift from it,” says Greg Ahearn, vice president of business development for Fort Lee, NJ-based ToysRUs.com. “Our prime marketing efforts really kick in Oct. 1, so if the consumer holds on to to his rebate check until then, that’s fine. But I think marketers that sell apparel and home deocr will benefit first.”

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