I mentioned it last year and I’ll say it again: The holiday shopping season isn’t getting longer—it’s getting shorter. Just when the greatest number of new customers are coming into stores, salespeople are too pressed to give exceptional customer service, create relationships, sell additional pieces, capture contact information with permission for follow-up, turn over sales that aren’t going well, sell based on emotion, plant seeds for purchases next year, etc. In the week before Christmas, all salespeople have time to do is take the next customer in line.
The media have trained the public to wait till the last minute, when retailers are desperate and taking deep discounts to move merchandise. I suggest starting your holiday selling season now.
Last year I heard that layaway programs were back. In fact, they never went away; salespeople just didn’t take advantage of them. This year, use layaway as a tool to start selling holiday merchandise now.
In department stores, holiday signs go up just before or after Halloween. I’m not saying to decorate your store for the holidays in October, but it wouldn’t hurt to put up a few counter signs that say, "Lay away now for the holidays." Salespeople should at least ask about holiday gifts in October and November and mention the layaway plan or finance options. Early suggestions might encourage a client to create a custom-made piece or special order a unique item she’s dreamed about for years.
Salespeople should call or e-mail the top 25–30 percent of your customer base and try to set appointments in October and November, when you have the widest selection of merchandise. Salespeople should also ask every customer, including repair and watch battery customers: "Who is on your holiday gift giving list this year?" If one out of every 10 or 20 customers responds positively, you’re much better off than not asking at all. At best, you’ll make some holiday sales now; at the very least, you’ll plant seeds for holiday purchases later on.
Last year, a client had a suggestion for last-minute shoppers: buy a New Year’s Eve gift. He pitched the idea as a way to create a special surprise for a special person. He sold around $30,000 in New Year’s Eve gifts. That’s called thinking outside the box.
Jewelers cannot afford to sit back and wait for things to happen. To succeed, jewelers have to make things happen!