January? February? Valentine’s Day? Most retailers just want to make it through this year’s holiday shopping season before thinking about 2014. Besides, January is typically not a strong month for retail jewelry sales. Yet many shoppers have cash-in-hand to spend from work bonuses and family gifts. So it’s a good time to contemplate running a January clearance or customer appreciation sale to move some of your older inventory that did not sell over the holidays and to attract new customers into your store.
No doubt it’s a challenge to manage and juggle all aspects of your store at the busiest time of the retail season. Taking care of customers and selling merchandise is obviously the first priority. But in the process of selling you can learn - on a daily basis - what’s working (and what’s not). You don’t have to wait to play Monday morning quarterback with your sales efforts; observe what’s going on now and be agile enough to react to your specific marketplace and customer demands. Spot these trends today and you’ll be able to better position your store to kick off a profitable New Year.
As customers flow through your store, try to do an on-going sales analysis. What are you noticing about this year’s sales that is different from last year’s holiday shopping season? What is your average price point compared to year’s past? Have you noticed a shift in your customer demographics? Older, younger? Male, female? What are your best-selling categories? Do you have all price points and categories in-stock or are your customers requesting products that you don’t have?
A quick review of daily sales will allow you to catch relevant sales trends and make sure you have the right mix of inventory and price points. Do you have gemstone jewelry? Diamond jewelry, custom jewelry, necklaces, estate jewelry, earrings, pendants, pearls, bracelets and watches? During the holiday shopping season there should be merchandise for every occasion, every taste and every budget.
As you continue your daily, “real time” sales analysis, pay attention to your competition. Specifically their advertising: radio, television, newspaper and direct mail. Is your competition offering merchandise, discounts or services that you aren’t? Think about your own advertising efforts. What was the most effective form of marketing and promotion you employed this past year. What kind of response are you getting from your current efforts? How do customers learn of your special offers? Have you started to use social media resources? What makes your store different from the competition - especially the big box stores?
Collecting all this data during the holiday season may seem like an overload when you just want to get through the day to store closing. Wait until the end of each day when the store is closed and the staff has gone home to jot down your observations. Keep an informal journal; something as simple as a spiral notebook. Do this on a daily basis for a week or two and you’ll start to see patterns emerge. Store owners work very long hours during the holiday season, but obtaining information to better manage your store will make for a more relaxing summer vacation.
The holiday rush and influx of shoppers into your store is also the ideal opportunity to beef up your customer database by confirming current customer contact information - and specifically e-mail addresses. A simple, half page Product Warranty and Returns form (with your store policies), that customers complete at the checkout counter, can be a quick and easy method to capture e-mail and mailing address information. Simple and short is best. Having current customer contact information and an updated database is an essential marketing tool you’ll want to have to advertise your upcoming January sale event.
Of course many point of sale systems used today have the ability to transfer customer information into your database every time you run a credit card, but the abbreviated written form will give you their e-mail address as well. Make sure you put a disclaimer that makes it clear that all contact information, including e-mail addresses, are kept confidential and are for store use only.
Another approach to capture contact information for both customers and prospects (people who look but don’t buy) is to have a customer appreciation raffle. Again, simple and short is best. Have an uncomplicated raffle ticket form that gives you the customer or prospect name, mailing and e-mail address, with the drawing to be held the first week in January. Winners of the raffle prizes will be notified by e-mail which, of course, gives you the opportunity to send an e-coupon; an offer to save up to 40% off on any one item or entire purchase.
Retailers who take time each day during the holiday rush to evaluate their on-going business; spot sales trends; manage their inventory; take note of the competition; plan and implement good marketing strategies and techniques; will be in a great position to launch an aggressive January sales campaign and kick start sales in 2014.
Bob Epstein is CEO of Silverman Consultants, LLC. Offering a legacy in sales strategies for jewelers since 1945, Silverman Consultants provides guidance to store owners seeking to turn around a business, sell off unwanted inventory, or liquidate an entire store. With offices located in Charleston, SC; New York City; and Saskatoon, Canada; the company helps jewelry store owners and chains formulate strategies designed to maximize revenue in times of transition, whether due to retirement, store closing, or simply when needing a boost in sales. For more information, visit www.silvermanconsultants.com or call Bob direct at 800-347-1500.