Omaha, NE—Whenever I ask a jewelry retailer what the most important time of year is for their business, I get a look that says, “you must be kidding, right?” However, if I ask that same jeweler how they prepared for their biggest month, I find surprisingly many jewelers take very little time at it.
By comparison, ask them if their favorite sports team approaches a championship final the same way as the regular season.
Of course not! A team playing in a final will hone their training to specifically meet the strengths of their opponent, they will often take a special training retreat in the week leading up to the final, make publicity commitments to bolster fan support, and bring in specialist advisors and mentors to help the team prepare mentally. And all this happens before they even set foot on the field! The result is a final usually played at a level of skill and intensity that you would not see during a mid-season game. With all that extra physical and mental preparation those athletes are pumped!
The thought of a retail jeweler approaching the holiday season with the same level of intensity as they have in June leaves me shaking my head at the missed opportunities. We’re already a week into December, but it’s not too late to quickly regroup and try some of these strategies. Even in this busy month, there are a few slow hours here and there that you can use to help make this year “one to remember.” Here they are:
Review aged inventory now. Yes, now. Now is your best opportunity to quit this product outside of sale mode. Why? Because the sheer weight of numbers coming through your door means even the ugliest item has someone walking in who will love it.
Get those old pieces re-ticketed and re-boxed. Make sure their price reflects current market value. Most importantly, talk to the staff about this product and how important it is to be showing it. Many old items often have nothing wrong with them other than the staff has seen them for months (or years) and don’t like them. Start showing it to people and it will eventually go. Offer incentives to the staff to see these items go, as it’s in their interests to not have to keep cleaning them again!
Order spares. This isn’t about ordering everything in lots of 35—but the bread and butter items you can’t do without are the very ones your vendors may not be able to fulfill quickly during the last busy days.
Any items on your reports with a fast seller status of six or more are likely to sell so fast in December that you will miss sales without having spares. One store I know kept three of the same $1495 diamond ring in reserve: it was their best seller and they knew there was a good chance of selling four at that time of year and they weren’t prepared to risk not seeing it happen.
Review your marketing. There’s still time. What product lines are your best sellers? What mediums are available quickly for contacting your customers? And are you up to date with those mediums? If not, start now!
Prepare the staff. You wouldn’t send your sports team out onto the field without knowing which direction they are playing, who’s in what position, and what tactics are required to take the opponents down. Make sure your staff gets extra training and motivation—even a few minutes a day—at this crucial time of the year.
Tell your staff about your December goals. They’re not mind readers. Share with them the budgeted target and how you plan to get there. Make sure they understand the importance of keeping the store presentable always. Talk about the good sellers and how they can be kept in front of customers. Fine tune their customer approach (see above paragraph), and make sure the rosters are in place with back-up help wherever required. The average customer has over 10 people to buy for during the season—simply telling your staff that fact can be a world of opportunity for the smart salesperson.
Review your procedures so you can cope with demand. Aside from extra staff, if you need spare repair books, extra wrapping paper, or even an extra POS terminal or till, take advantage of a slow moment and get them.
Get your best salespeople on the floor. It seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often retailers use December as the opportunity to let their less experienced staff “have a go” at selling. This period is too important to leave to novices. Would you let your tight end “have a go” at goal-kicking during the final? Of course not! You get your specialist to do it, and get them some extra training too. But don’t forget the backup players: even if they never see action, a championship team will make sure all members of the squad are practiced up in case they are called upon for action.
Your staff is the same. Make sure your best staff are on the front lines but make sure your other staff are ready should the opportunity come along.
Record and measure your activities. It’s easy to forget a lot of decisions, processes, and marketing initiatives you put in place at this busy time of year. The result, however, is that next year you will be reinventing the wheel. Record all your marketing initiatives and policies in a notebook you can easily refer back to later.
The biggest crime of marketing is not that retailers get it wrong; it’s that they fail to measure successes and learn from their mistakes. They often give up on a good idea or continue with a bad one, when some simple data collection will show whether the initiative bore fruit or not. Case in point: mailings to your entire database with nothing in place to measure how many of the letters or vouchers were bought back in or drove sales.
Even though it’s December already, it’s not truly too late until the season is over.