What is an on-Sale Date?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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An on-sale date is a publishing term which refers to the date when a particular book or magazine will go on sale. The term is also used by the recording and film industries for new releases of albums and films. On-sale dates popularly occur on Tuesdays in all three industries, although special items may be released on different dates. Part of the promotional process for many major books, films, and albums includes disclosure of the on-sale date to encourage consumers to purchase the item on the day of its release.

The violation of an on-sale date can be accompanied by stiff fines and other penalties, especially for major products. If a store inadvertently prematurely puts a product out for sale once, a company may be forgiving. Repeat incidents will result in shipping all new releases out after the on-sale date, to prevent the store from selling the items early. As a result, the business of the store may suffer because the store does not have the product when consumers want it. While companies are not concerned about minor releases, big products will be accompanied by strict enforcement of on-sale dates.


In publishing, books are referred to as embargoed before they have reached their on-sale date. Most boxes with embargoed books come clearly labeled so that bookstores can set the boxes aside and open them when the books are cleared to sell. The embargo labels indicate the title of the book, the on-sale date, and the penalties for putting the books out for sale early. Embargoed books are kept in staff-only areas to prevent members of the public from seeing them.

In some cases, heavy promotion accompanies the release of a product, which brings consumers to a fever pitch. The Harry Potter series, for example, has strongly enforced on-sale dates, and many bookstores throw midnight parties so that customers can start reading the books as soon as possible. Long lines often form for products, especially electronics, when a release date is anticipated. Heavily promoted products can cause a great deal of stress for store owners and staff, due to the associated chaos which may require more staffing and longer hours.

Access to products before the on-sale date is usually heavily restricted. Manufacturers make sure that employees understand the severity of violating the on-sale date, and warehouses carefully control their stock. When stock is shipped out to stores, it is labeled and usually kept in a secure area until the on-sale date arrives. Some companies, especially major publishers, conduct random checks of stores to ensure that their on-sale dates are not being violated.


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