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How a Texas Grocery Chain Turned Promotional Tote Bags Into a Can't-Miss Event

December 11, 2018 | Brendan Menapace

Back in March, a San Antonio-based grocery store debuted tote bags celebrating the late pop star Selena. The $2 tote bag resulted in lines stretching onto the sidewalk and a nearly instant sell out. Heck, the store’s website even crashed as it got inundated with traffic. To meet the popular demand—bags sold for as high as $100 on the likes of eBay—the store, HEB, did another run of Selena bags yesterday.

Just like the first round, the bags went on sale at 6 a.m., and a group gathered outside of the store a few minutes before then. After the initial rush, according to Texas Monthly, bags started popping up on eBay at around 6:30 a.m. for about a $20 list price, on average. Some people dangled prices as high as $75 to see what they could get. Only one of them sold—for an insane $1,000—but the existence of a resale market, at all, points to the bags’ popularity.

Dan Soloman, who was there reporting for Texas Monthly, wrote:

Overall, it was an easy, accessible experience—which is how it should be. The frenzy of Selena grocery bags breaking the internet in March was a fun story, and the unexpected enthusiasm her fans had for the chance to honor her legacy spoke to the enduring appeal of one of the titans of Texas music. Selena is a true icon who belongs on our state’s musical Mount Rushmore right next to Willie, Beyoncé and Buddy Holly—of course there should be a frenetic rush of fans charging across HEB locations statewide just to hold an image of her in their hands, to stash in their shrines alongside their “Como La Flor” T-shirts and Selena prayer candles.

The demand for the first run was almost Black Friday level, so it makes sense that the grocery chain tried it again. And while it didn’t result in quite the same turnout, it was still a big win. By using a promotional product that has broad appeal with its customer-base, the store was able to pull in a ton of extra traffic—not to mention make national headlines.

It’s unclear if HEB plans to continue with these promotions, but it would be silly not to. And, hey, if people lined up for a promotional tote, imagine what they’d do if the store offered a different product next time. It’s a prime example of what’s possible with a well-crafted promotion.

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