Another lesson about competition from car salesmen.

One month ago, I wrote about the lesson I learned from a car salesman on how to solicit Broadway investments.  Well, yesterday I found myself car shopping once again, right here on the isle de Manhattan, and wouldn’t you know it, I got another tutorial.

This time, however, it wasn’t about raising money . . . it was about t-t-t-iming.

Manhattan is one of the few parts of the country that still has shopping “districts.”  There’s the fashion district, where you can find the as-seen-on-Project-Runway Mood fabrics, and countless others.  Down on 8th Street, you’ll find a plethora of shoe stores saddled-up side by side.  And over on 11th Ave in the upper 50s, you’ll find car dealership after car dealership, riding sidecar with each other as they compete for customers.

The other important retail district in the city which perhaps sees the most revenue?  Why, the theatre district of course!

So I popped on up to a dealer yesterday at 6:30 to take a spin around the showroom floor and get a few prices.  When I got there, I learned that they closed at 7:00, so I only had 30 minutes.  I bopped around, kicked some tires, and then was shuffled out the door a bit prematurely.  Wanting to take advantage of the district and to do some comparison shopping, I walked the block and a half to another dealership . . . only to find their doors locked.  They closed at 7 too.  Ok, let me try dealership #3.  Nope.  7 PM shutdown.  #4???  I’ll give you one guess.  19:00 hrs aka 7 PM.

It was like all the dealerships in the districts were the characters in Oceans 11, and were about to rob a casino and synced their watches beforehand.

And in a way, they did.  When choosing their hours, they lazily said, “Well, when is everyone else closing?  Let’s just do what everyone else does.”  What they should have said, “What’s everyone else doing?  And how can we adjust our timing to gain a slight competitive advantage?”

Imagine how one of those dealers would have benefited if they were open until 7:30?  8?  They’d be the only dealership open in the area!  You don’t think they’d pull in some more people and move some more cars?  I was in the mood to shop . . . and no one was accommodating.  Had one dealership kept their doors open, they would have made a much stronger impression.

Translating this theory to our district . . . You don’t think that having a 2:30 curtain time when everyone else has a 2 could sell you more tickets?  Or a 7:30 when everyone else has a 7?

The first rule of marketing is to make a great product (a show or a car) that markets itself.  But in the theater, after your show is made, you can’t release a new model to attract new customers into your showroom.  You’ve got to use every competitive advantage you can . . . especially if your show isn’t at the top of everyone’s ‘must buy’ list.

Finding those competitive advantages is easier than you think.  Just look at what everyone else is doing, and do something slightly different.

 

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Comments
  • Beth says:

    How about Monday shows? Out of towners like me would have more flexibility in planning a weekend getaway if we could attend Monday shows. A matinee would be great, because you could squeeze in one more show before heading to the airport.

  • Malini says:

    I don’t know if I agree with you on comparing buying a car to buying a ticket to a show. In my experience, when we bought our car, a lot of thought went into it. There were many factors that led to our decision.

    Also, there must be a reason all those dealerships close at 7. Location, liability. Plus, I’m sure that you are still going to buy a car. Except now you know to go during business hours. Or maybe you won’t but I think you will.

    That side of town is a bit sketchy so I would feel better knowing you bought the car during the day. 🙂

  • Rick Shulman says:

    When Phantom of the Opera first opened, it was the impossible ticket to get. To take advantage of those that couldn’t get a ticket, David Merrick set the curtain time at 8:15pm for 42nd Street, which was playing across the street at the St. James Theater.

  • janis says:

    At one time all the car lots in Detroit closed on Saturday because the salesmen were in the auto workers union and the union prevented them working on weekends.

    Maybe the NYC 7 pm car lot closing rule is another union thing. Hopefully there’s nothing similar for Broadway shows.

  • Greg Hartley says:

    There were two times when a change from the normal Tuesday-Sunday schedule left a bad taste in my mouth. I was so used to night shows being at 8:00pm. I bought tickets on line for Guys & Dolls and for a Tuesday night. Did not even think they change Tuesday night to 7:00pm. We took the train in thinking we had plenty of time for dinner. We ate and headed to the theatre at 7:30. Needless to say we were disappointed when we found out we miss the first half hour of the show.

    The other time was when I went up on a Wednesday to see a matinee. The show I wanted to see was in previews and was not doing Wednesday matinees yet. I ended up getting something from TKTS but was annoyed that I took a day off from work and was not able to see the show I wanted.

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