Columnists Bob Epstein Getting ready for the 2012 Holiday Shopping Season

Getting ready for the 2012 Holiday Shopping Season

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Santa is not the only one making a list and checking it twice. With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time now to make final preparations to insure your store and staff are ready to maximize sales and profitability.

Your inventory level and mix is an all important starting place. Inventory management is, of course, a year-round process, but it’s time now to do a final review. Overall, do you have sufficient stock to accommodate customer demands? Many jewelers do up to 35% of their annual business during the holiday season. Well stocked display cases with a wide mix and variety of inventory naturally attract buyers. Conversely a sparse looking store can drive potential buyers away.

Other quick questions you need to ask yourself with regard to inventory: have you reviewed the previous sales from last year and do you know your best selling items? Does your average price point reflect what sold last year during this season? Make sure you have a good mix of items that will generate a higher margin, in addition to specials, which turn quickly but may not generate as high a margin.  What about your older inventory and items that are least profitable? Use the pre-holiday season as a time to run a sale and mark-down these items to generate cash to pay for newer inventory.

Now on to your store environment, which can directly impact sales. A store which is clean, well lit and has a festive, holiday feel about it will naturally attract shoppers. Don’t clutter your store, but some strategically placed ribbons, bows, garlands and other decorations can add some holiday cheer and make for an inviting atmosphere.

Pay special attention to your store window display - it’s the first thing your customer sees and is a deciding factor whether to go into your store. 

Lighting is important.  Do your fixtures highlight the best of the merchandise, without being overpowering? Featured products should be spotlighted to attract customer attention. Keep your store bright and airy, and make sure all areas are adequately lit - no dark (or dusty) corners.

Hopefully you’ve trained your staff to understand the importance of good customer service, but this is especially important during the holidays when many shoppers are stressed and need a helping hand.   Make sure your staff members are friendly and greet customers; encourage them to browse. Is your staff well dressed?  Is their phone etiquette polished? What do you do to go the extra mile to help customers? Do you offer gift wrapping, mailing or delivery service? Whatever you do provide as an extra service, be sure your customers know about it.

What about advertising and promotion? If you have a customer mailing list - and I hope you do - now is the time to use it. Choose an evening in the middle of the week before the peak shopping season and consider doing a direct mail piece. Offer your preferred customers a special discount in appreciation for their continued patronage. Invite them to your store one evening after work for wine and cheese, coffee and cookies while they preview new merchandise that’s just arrived for the holidays.

What other forms of advertising do you normally do during the holidays and how effective has it been in years past? Store signage is often the most effective and least expensive way to draw customers into your shop, especially if you’re located in a mall or in a store with good foot traffic and street visibility. Stores in strip centers or stand alone locations might want to test targeted direct mail to outside mailing lists. Match the demographics of your own customers with that of the list you rent. Test cable or local radio spot advertising. Community newspapers are far less expensive than higher circulation papers - especially those covering major metropolitan areas.

It’s the calm before the storm; evaluating your store today and making some changes will help improve your sales performance this coming holiday shopping season. In today’s competitive marketplace, a  proactive owner takes home the prize. Learn from your previous mistakes, and  evaluate how to make enhancements in your sales strategy for this year’s peak shopping season. If you do, chances are good you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a smile and more money in the bank.

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.

 
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