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Did Klarna and Cosmo Just Reinvent the Back-to-School Sale?

Online buy now, pay later service Klarna is teaming up with the millennial woman’s bible—Cosmopolitan Magazine—to stage a summer blowout.

On Monday, the companies announced the first annual Hauliday by Cosmo x Klarna virtual shopping event, which will take place on Aug. 8-9. Curated to the tastes of young shoppers, the 48-hour sale will feature exclusive deals on apparel, footwear and beauty from brands like Adidas, H&M, ModCloth, Rue21, Rhone, Sephora, and a smattering of others from Klarna’s roster of more than 4,200 U.S. partners.

According to David Sykes, head of Klarna’s U.S. operations, the idea for a sales holiday took shape as the payment solutions provider studied the success of such events across the globe. Alibaba’s Singles’ Day, for example, reportedly drove more than $34 billion in sales in just one day in November.

“We’d always felt that there was a big opportunity, given the number of consumers we have and the number of retail partners we have,” Sykes told Sourcing Journal, adding that 85 million shoppers to date have signed up for Klarna’s service.

Cosmo had been contemplating launching its own sales event, he said, and the two parties came together over their shared audience: young, fashion-hungry shoppers. The magazine’s readership, Klarna’s customers and the brands on the platform all “overwhelmingly target the millennial and Gen Z consumer,” Sykes said.

When the coronavirus crisis struck in full force this spring, Klarna and Cosmo considered putting the event on hold indefinitely. But Klarna was buoyed by the growth of its user base in the months that followed. Throughout this period of retail lockdowns and economic uncertainty, the platform has grown tremendously, he said, due to “pent-up consumer demand” and the financial flexibility that comes with paying in installments.

While sales have maintained an upward trajectory, shoppers’ appetites have changed since the pandemic began. In the beginning, predictably, consumers stocked up on essentials. But as the quarantine scenario took on a new degree of permanence, Sykes said Klarna users began shopping for do-it-yourself projects and video games to stave off boredom, along with home office setups to ensure a more comfortable workspace.

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Now that shoppers have acclimated to their new normal, Sykes said they are treating themselves to new wardrobe staples and self-care essentials. Athleisure, beauty and skincare, and sleep and lounge have become the strongest categories on the Klarna platform. “We think these three particular trends will remain strong for the rest of the year,” he said.

This year’s Hauliday sale will be limited to U.S. shoppers, and the partners will assess its success in deciding whether to open up to other markets in the future. “We’ve got about 8 million shoppers here and 1.5 million users of our app, and Cosmopolitan has one of the largest reader bases in the U.S.,” Sykes said, with 72 million monthly readers.

Cosmo’s editors are curating products for the event, he added, and will raise awareness about the sale through the magazine, along with its website and social channels. “Their editorial teams will recommend products and promote deals,” he said, in the days leading up to the event. The sale will take place on Klarna’s channels.

And while the question of whether kids and young shoppers will head back to school in a traditional sense is still up in the air, Sykes said the sale’s dates were chosen to coincide with the usual sales that take place in early August. Deals for women, men and kids will be available, he said, and while many brands will be looking to liquidate spring and summer inventory, there will also be pre-season deals on fall product.

“Hauliday is perfectly timed to kick off the fall, and with Klarna’s network of retail partners participating, it will be two days filled with deals, giveaways, and surprise-and-delight moments,” Nancy Berger, Cosmopolitan’s senior vice president and publishing director said in a statement, adding that it will be the biggest U.S. sales event geared toward young shoppers.