Vrai & Oro’s Retirement Sale Isn’t A Sale and We Should Pay Attention

Clearing inventory without leveraging a discount is a bold move.

Taylor Coil
Mar 14 · 6 min read

I own a lot of Vrai & Oro.

I wear this ring every day, this necklace most days, and these earrings twice a week until I left them in a YMCA locker after an ill-fated workout. I wish I owned this ring, but I have to pay rent and also feed myself.

Clearly, I’m brand loyal. So I got excited when I checked my inbox this morning.

Nestled among the seven thousand cold emails from SaaS salespeople was an announcement:

Oooooooooh!

A Vrai & Oro sale!

Wait.

Not a Vrai & Oro sale.

As consumers, we’re trained to see “almost gone” and think “clearance.” Which means discount. I won’t lie, that was the reason for my initial excitement: a cost-based justification to buy more jewelry.

But I didn’t get one. And I’m fascinated by that.

Is Scarcity Enough of a Conversion Lever to Accelerate Cash Flow?

Because, obviously, Vrai & Oro is preparing for something. My guess is a major launch. Which requires cash. Retiring a product without a discount is bold at any time, but especially in that context.

Scarcity might be enough if:

  • brand affinity is compelling,
  • product resonance is meaningful (but then, why would you retire it), AND
  • inventory isn’t too stockpiled — getting through 100 units is one thing, 5,000…. another entirely.

It wasn’t enough for us at Tortuga, at least not for a couple of particularly tricky SKUs. We decided to discount our own retiring products to shore up cash flow more quickly so that we could invest in new launches.

I can’t wait to see if Vrai & Oro replicates the non-sale tactic next time they retire designs. I want to know if it works.

Don’t Think of a Pink Elephant

Vrai & Oro knew people would assume that, by retiring product, they were discounting. Copy is far from Vrai & Oro’s strength, but even these okay-ish writers chose their words with incredible intention.

Note the bold text in their announcement email, a sign they were attempting to head off questions:

Almost gone. Saying goodbye. “Final sale” and “free shipping.” They got all of the main points into one paragraph, hinting at the lack of a discount without explicitly stating it. Because if they explicitly said “we’re not discounting,” people would be up in arms about it.

But…. okay, can we just rewrite that email to read:

we’re saying goodbye to #X essential designs, now available as final sale with free shipping.

Phew. Okay. That’s better.

Moving on.

Can We Talk About Identity Cues?

I came up with the phrase “identity cues” on a call with Garrett, who is in charge of visuals at Tortuga, while redesigning our store a couple of years ago.

(Maybe I didn’t come up with it. Maybe I unknowingly stole it from somewhere. It feels like I came up with it. Did I come up with it? Please advise.)

An identity cue is a subtle signal that speaks to the target audience’s sense of self. Maybe it’s piece of copy that uses language intrinsic to that tribe’s vernacular. That’s hard to get right — nothing cringier than a fast casual restaurant claiming their wings are “lit,” right? Or it’s a variation on that one vintage-y font you’ve seen everywhere, distinctive enough to feel like it speaks directly to a particular group. Or a model’s styling, an outfit so representative of that audience’s aesthetic that customers see themselves in the shot, not the model. Or a location, or a style of photo editing, or even a glimpse of terrazzo.

Vrai & Oro is leveraging the hell out of identity cues. I’ve noticed it for a long time in their photo styling, so delightfully modern in that California-cool-girl way. Even the visuals they use to communicate sustainability are California cool, a far cry from the playful leafy icons to which we’re so accustomed.

Damn fine visuals. Weird, inconsistent, borderline nonsensical copy. I told you it wasn’t their strength.

It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, that Vrai & Oro intentionally leveraged identity cues in their retirement… non-sale.

Sidenote: we’re so discount-driven as a marketing universe that I don’t even know what to call this promotion. We’ll just call it “Almost Gone,” since that’s what’s in their nav.

Look at the waving emoji, present everywhere from the nav to overlays on collection pages to little bubbles on product pages.

Speaking of that little bubble, note how it looks like a message bubble you’d see on a smartphone. And not just any message bubble: the color and shape most resemble Instagram DMs.

They could’ve made the callout a regular bit of text, perhaps bolded for emphasis, but instead it’s reminiscent of the communication platforms with which their audience is most familiar. A decision that’s all the more heightened by the emoji usage.

And when you click on that bubble, you get a gif of the queen.

Again with the terrible copy! WHY is the copy so bad?

Can you get any more “modern millennial urban woman” than a waving gif of the queen?

The copy in that bubble could be better. And by “it could be better” I mean that it is disjointed and objectively bad. But I like the gif.

I’m curious to see how this non-sale goes for them. I like the idea of existing in a direct-to-consumer landscape wherein sales are rare and prices are fair.

Some Thoughts on Vrai & Oro’s Evolution

The products Vrai & Oro is retiring, for the most part, tell a cohesive story. One of a shifting aesthetic and an upmarket transition.

Compare the aesthetic of the SKUs in “Almost Gone” to recent releases, like the Emerald Tetrad and the Mix Diamond Cuff Ring.

The Bar Necklace is far from fashion-forward. The Circle Bracelet and Initial Ring are cute but not cool.

The Emerald Tetrad is cool.

Vrai & Oro rarely launches a new “entry level” product — they’re launching investment pieces. Pieces women buy for themselves. Basics, sure, but higher-end basics. Pieces to commemorate important moments — for instance, I bought my diamond solitaire necklace the day MozCon asked me to speak.

I say “entry level” because the lower price points are, presumably, the first purchase a customer makes at Vrai & Oro. Women probably buy huggie hoops or line earrings, a lower-risk first test of a brand. It looks like Vrai & Oro is becoming leaner on those entry level pieces, trying to cull the SKU landscape down to the most stylish, most modern, most likely to sell like gangbusters. Once a customer is impressed by Vrai & Oro, she’ll trust the brand with an investment-level purchase.

When Vrai & Oro launched, they were all entry level basics all the time. Kind of like MeJuri. But Vrai & Oro is going a different direction, holding onto their midmarket roots while trying to expand upmarket.

It’s fascinating. I’m excited.

I can’t wait to see if it works.

But yo, Vrai & Oro, work on your copy!

Taylor Coil

Written by

Marketing Director with a focus on direct-to-consumer content & product marketing. Traveler, writer, speaker, fierce advocate for remote work.

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