2012 Holiday Survival Guide: Month-by-Month Tips for Retail Sales Success

Experts in marketing, social media, publicity, sales, and other critical areas of operations share their secrets for seasonal success

You’ve been down this road before—as have we. But whether it’s your second, fifth, or 30th holiday season, a little refresher on what to do to ensure a profitable end to your year never hurts. That’s the spirit behind JCK’s second-annual Holiday Survival Guide, a primer to get your business into tip-top shape for the most decisive months on the jewelry retail calendar.

Although many of the tips you’ll find on the following pages are familiar (use color in your showcases, don’t neglect your displays, and plan your fashion jewelry inventory carefully so you won’t be stuck with leftovers once the gift-giving is through), much of the advice rings of 21st-century innovation—such as Dan Schawbel’s suggestion to “gamify” your displays with QR codes and SMS gateways to win over the millennial crowd.

If you have some helpful advice of your own—we know you do!—email it to editorial@jckonline.com and we’ll post it on our new Community page (jckonline.com/jewelry-community). Because giving your fellow retailers the gift of knowledge is the kind of generous gesture you can be sure will come around.


“This holiday season, we feel that fashion lines will be a big draw—even more so than in recent years.”
—Jade Connor, Jewelry Buyer,
Brown & Co. Jewelers,
Atlanta & Buckhead, Ga.

Iolite and clear quartz earrings with removable drop in 24k gold-plated
brass; $540; Bounkit, NYC;
212-244-1877; bounkit.com

“Establish a weekly score card for your salespeople. If the salespeople hit a certain objective, they all get a bonus—$100 or a team dinner. If they hit the number for the month, there is a larger award. The idea is to have the entire organization working toward a common goal.”
—Ken Thoreson, president, Acumen Management Group

Exclusively Yours
“Find out who around you is ordering the same things. I would rather pay a little more for the exclusive. You’re not going to make big money looking like the guy next door.”
—Bob Phibbs, founder, The Retail Doctor

Mission Driven
“Teach your staff to quickly assess any situation so they can set an objective for that sales ­interaction. That involves a commitment ­objective: an idea of what they’re going to be able to accomplish in that interaction. That becomes the guiding light of that sales transaction. You can’t just break out everything in the vault.”
—Duane Sparks, chairman, The Sales Board

Imagine That
“Instead of focusing on solely ­pushing your brand, engage your customers with inspiring stories. You can draw from people who inspire you, legendary ­jewels, or even fairytales. Forget the sales and let your imagination do the talking. This authentic engagement with your customers will serve you long after the holiday rush.”
—Sasha Vasilyuk, publicist, Yael Designs

Ice Ice Baby
“Many retailers don’t realize how many glasses they need—they might go through anywhere from one to six, plastic or glass, per guest—nor do they have enough staff to bus glasses to keep the place spotless. Plus, you need a pound and half of ice per person for a party.”
—Maya Kalman, CEO–creative director, SWANK Productions
Window Theory
“Tiffany & Co. takes the smallest store window in New York and draws the customer with intricate displays. Every year…our magazine has hosted the Winning Windows competition, where we review displays in Manhattan. Last year, ­Tiffany brought that small window out of the facade by building a carousel for the jewelry. It made you want to see it from across the street.”
—Alison Embrey Medina, executive editor, Display and Design Ideas
Radio City
“Don’t be afraid to embrace traditional media. Last year, we ran a daily holiday promotion with the local radio station. A DJ would award daily prizes from our store live on the air. People had to sign up in our store to get on the call list. The winner had to accept the prize or decline it for a chance at the $2,500 diamond necklace grand prize. As weeks went on, the prizes got tougher to turn down. We were the talk of the county!”
—Robert Corey, owner, Robert’s Jewelry, Madawaska, Maine

You’ve Got Email
“Begin building your email list. Email is still the best for actually closing sales. Make sure that people can easily sign up for your email newsletter. Put it in your email signature, on social media like Facebook, and at your store. Give them something for signing up, like a free guide to Gift Ideas Under $50.”
—Jeanne Rossomme, founder–president, RoadMap Marketing


“Based on last year’s ­average sale we hope our ­customers will spend a little more this year: between $850 and $1,500. We have stocked our showroom with unique one-of-a-kind ­designer pieces as well as exquisite estate jewelry, so we have something for everyone in all price points.”
—Rejena Carreras, Owner,
Carreras, Richmond, Va.

One-of-a-kind hand-painted necklace in 22k gold with pear-shape ruby; price on request; Ansaa Jewellers, Mumbai; 91-22-2241-1244; ansaajewellers.com

High Priorities
“Get sell-through agreements with your vendors. They come in a lot of different flavors and one flavor is consignment, which allows you to send back all unsold inventory. If they won’t do that, ask for a deal where you stipulate a minimum level of sell-through, say 50 percent. If you’re sure that you will sell a lot of something, buy it outright because the margins will be bigger.”
—Steve Pruitt, president, Blacks Retail

On Schedule
“Check the calendar of groups involved to make sure members are not overly booked—making them less apt to attend—and think about all the different people involved to be sure nothing is scheduled on a holiday. One charity I worked with scheduled an event for the night of Yom Kippur. I had to explain to them that it was like the Easter of Christianity, the holiest night of the year in the Jewish calendar. They were mortified.”
—Susan Morgan, CEO, Susan W. Morgan Public Relations
Early Birds
“With holiday shoppers, you have people who shop early, and the last-minute shoppers. So when you are setting up your messages around November, think about how you can get shoppers in early. Add bonuses, free personalization—anything you can think of to make sure you can get some of their holiday money before it runs out.”
—Jeanne Rossomme, founder–president, RoadMap Marketing

Canned-Do Spirit
“Encourage employees to get into the holiday spirit by hosting a canned-food drive at your store or participating in your local Adopt-a-Family. These events promote ­corporate social responsibility and create a special connection [with] your target audience. Keep a count of canned goods collected and update it daily on Twitter. Or Instagram a picture of the bicycle your store is donating to an Adopt-a-Family child.”
—Nathan Davidson, luxury brand strategist, Facet Marketing Group

Just Asking
“Help your staff develop a good set of questions to ask customers. ­Questioning skills are, to me, the most important tool that a sales­person has in their bag. All the information you get goes into ­making a recommendation. Without information, you’re just guessing.”
—Duane Sparks, chairman, The Sales Board

Greet Neat
“When customers come in the door, saying, ‘May I help you?’ is a recipe for disaster. Give people a chance to settle down. Greet them with a ‘good afternoon’ and ‘good morning.’ Ask if this is the first time they have been there, and if they haven’t been there before, give them a brief tour.”
—Bob Phibbs, founder, The Retail Doctor

Tweet, Tweet
“Tweeting photos linking to your website or Facebook page of specials and hashtagging them with #BlackFriday, #Holiday, or #Special creates a flag for your tweet that is found in a thread of the same by people searching for that one holiday deal they can’t live without.”
—Lyndie Nunez, director of public relations and social media, Bluestar Applications


“The biggest seller for us will probably be sterling silver ­designer lines. I believe this will be a price point year. People will be conscious of their money because of the election and the high price of gold.”
—Sam Edwards, Owner,
Sam Edwards Jewelers, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Mesmerize pavé cuff bracelet in sterling silver with Swarovski Passion Topaz; $1,850; Walt Adler Jewelry, NYC; 504-383-5004; waltadler.com

12 Gems of Christmas
“Highlight 12 pieces of jewelry during the first 12 days in December and give your highlighted pieces prominence in your store and in social media that day. Tell the story behind the jewelry and the designer, and make sure someone is wearing it in the store. Tweet it, pin it, and Facebook it.”
—Olga Gonzalez, PR and social media consultant

For Love of the Game
“If a customer says, ‘I’m not sure,’ they are telling you one of two things: They don’t love it, or they can’t afford it. So find out. Say, ‘Right. You don’t love it.’ And if they agree, put it away, and say, ‘Let’s not try anything on that you don’t love.’?”
—Dave Kurlan, president, Kurlan & Associates

Raise Your Game
“Gamification is huge for millennial consumers. They like it when you turn things into a game, whether it’s a contest or something like a QR code. But don’t just make it ‘the first 100 Facebook likes get a prize.’ Make it creative. For instance: ‘Tell us about your experience with our product. The best Facebook comment gets a prize.’?”
—Dan Schawbel, managing partner, Millennial Branding

Stocking Smarts
“Key vendors shouldn’t be put off by requests for agreements on unsold inventory. But they can get [touchy] about taking back that snowball pendant or anything really Christmas-themed, because they’ll launch a new snowball pendant next year. With bridal, you can sell holiday inventory forward. But most fashion jewelry purchases happen around the holidays, so keep a handle on your vendor agreements.”
—Steve Pruitt, president, Blacks Retail

Test Run
“Walk through your purchase experience as an outsider. What does the customer first notice when they walk in? How can you improve the try-on experience—better-lit ­mirrors? How can you better educate your customers? All these small [things] add up to big repeat purchases and referrals.”
—George Taylor, president, Beyond Feedback

Extend Yourself
“Your social network subscribers are not strangers; they’re your faithful followers. If it’s late in the holiday shopping season and they’ve yet to come in for some much-needed jewelry, why not urge them to take advantage of exclusive extended hours? Send them an e-invite to visit you one hour early to help them dodge the last-minute crowds.”
—Todd Wasylyshyn, founder, The Toddwaz Report

Practice Makes Perfect
“Always review your run-of-show plan to make sure every detail is considered. Before a Christmas event in 2004, we forgot to order plates, napkins, and cutlery. Half an hour before the doors were to open, we looked at each other and said, ‘Do you have the plates?’?”
—Adrienne Fay, director of marketing and advertising, Borsheims
Live in Color
“There seems to be an inordinate fear of color in jewelry stores, like they’ve taken a page out of a model homebuilders’ guide where everything is beige! Picture lots and lots of rubies in a hot pink window! It’s exciting! Color sells!”
—Linda Cahan, founder, Cahan & Co., author of 100 Displays Under $100

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