Every retailer knows the answer when you ask them which month is the most important in their financial calendar. It doesn’t take a genius to know when it’s make or break time.
However it still surprises me that despite knowing this, many jewelers go into the month of December as if it is the same as any other month of the year. Apart from ordering a little more product and tweaking the staff roster, most other things are left to run as they normally would.
Yet for any store owner the month of December can contribute as much as 25% of total annual sales, and the last three days can contribute as much as 10% to the total yearly sales budget. Scary stuff indeed!
So it only seems natural that a little more planning needs to go in place for this time of the year. After all, your favorite sports team wouldn’t go into the final without a little extra preparation and planning, so why would you?
Here’s a quick pre December checklist to help make this December your best month ever.
Review old inventory – 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 doesn’t like them. Start showing it to people and it will eventually go. Offer incentives to the staff to see these items go – it’s in their interests to not have to keep cleaning them again!
Carry spares – This is not referring to the tendency of some store owners to buy all items in lots of 35! Instead I’m talking about the bread and butter items you can’t do without, but which your vendors may not be able to provide when things get busy. Look at anything on your reports that have a fast seller status of 6 or more – these items are likely to sell so fast in December that you will miss sales without a spare. I even know a store that kept three of the same $1495 diamond ring (which was their best seller), as they knew there was a good chance of selling four during their busiest month and they weren’t prepared to risk not seeing it happen.
Plan your marketing – and I don’t mean wait until the newspaper or radio rep walks through the door in a month’s time, then scratch your head about what you are going to do! I mean really plan. What product lines are your best sellers? What mediums are available for contacting your customers? What is your marketing budget? What additional evenings will you put on over this period? What other retailers target customers similar to yours that you could be jointly promoting with? What will it take to make your store the shop of choice for shopping this year?
Focus 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 –yet retailers do this repeatedly in December.
Talk to your staff about your December goals. Share with them the budgeted target and how you plan to get there. Make sure they understand the importance of keeping the store presentable at all times. Talk about the good sellers and how they can be kept in front of customers, fine tune their customer approach, make sure the rosters are in place with back ups wherever required. The average customer has over 10 people to buy for at this time of year! Simply telling your staff that can very easily open up a whole world of opportunity for the smart salesperson.
Review your procedures so you can cope with demand – Aside from extra staff, there may be the need for spare repair books, extra wrapping paper and computer rolls, even an extra POS terminal or cash register. Make sure all these things are considered well in advance.
Get your best salespeople on the floor - seems obvious I know, but it’s amazing how often retailers see December as the opportunity to let their new staff learn the ropes. This period is too important to leave for novices. Would your favorite sports team let a rookie have a go at finals time? Of course not. You get your specialist to do it and I would bet money you would get them having some extra training leading up to the final. Your staff are the same. Make sure your best staff are “taking the shots” (i.e. selling the diamond rings) and that they get the training and practice (and opportunity) they need leading up to the big occasion. Your other staff are there to support them and complete the other less important tasks
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 is next year you find yourself reinventing the wheel. Record all your marketing initiatives and store policies in a diary so you can easily refer back to them later. The biggest crime of marketing is not that retailers often get it wrong, it’s that they fail to learn from their mistakes or measure their successes. They will often give up on a good idea or continue with a bad one when some simple data collection will show them whether their initiative bore fruit or not. Database mail outs are a case in point where often the store does nothing to measure the effectiveness of how many of the letters or vouchers were brought back in. How then, do they know if the promotion was successful? They don’t, so they rely on a hunch instead.