The New York Times this morning reports that "a range of companies, big and small and in a variety of categories, are utilizing 'the drop,' releasing limited-edition items in small numbers at a particular time. Some businesses that opened during the pandemic have only sold products this way. More established companies are turning from more traditional sales models, like releasing a collection every season or having a store that consistently has merchandise, and adopting this strategy."
Food retailers don't do this very much - their existence is pretty much predicated on the idea of being fully stocked at all locations all the time (though recent supply chain issues have made this goal elusive).
But the idea is that the combination of surprise and scarcity can be amazingly magnetic to shoppers, and also provide businesses with inherent drama … and I think it is the kind of thing that more retailers ought to embrace.
There's nothing wrong with saying we're going to have X amount of this item at Y store at this particular time, and when it's gone, it's gone. If the product or service has a c compelling story attached to it, and retailers do an effective job of telling that story, it creates a sense of fun, theater and demand … all of which add up to more effective retailing.
We may in a time when shopping will be constrained by inflation, and so if retailers also can use these moments to offer shoppers something that they perceive as a win, it can go a long way to creating sustained relationships with those shoppers.