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What to Do When Holiday Customers Can’t Get to You … and More of Your Questions for October

Plus, sprucing up your sales floor and selling to Millennials.

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Last year we were having a terrific holiday season until a snowstorm hit on Dec. 22. We lost our last two days, and our season was a major disappointment. How do we prevent that this year?

If your customers can’t get to you, you need to go where they are. Before Black Friday, create a “Top 10 holiday gift ideas” gallery on your website. Cover all the main targets: Wife, Mom, Girlfriend, Favorite Niece, as well as important price points.

Back this up with a telemarketing plan. Arthur Klein of Match Marketing Group suggests creating a phone script for your sales associates that goes something like this:

  • “As a service to our favorite customers we have created a ‘Storm Customer Service Department’ to help people deal with the conditions today. We are contacting you to recommend that you not come out today and to recommend a few gift ideas.” (Offer to email photos of the gift suggestions.)
  • Inform the prospect that all the items will be gift wrapped and ready to pick up as soon as the weather clears. Assure them that their credit card will not be charged until pickup.
  • Have a sales contest to reward the top-selling associate with either a cash reward or a restaurant gift certificate.

How do I sell to Millennials?

The crucial difference about today’s young customer is that while their parents (the Baby Boomers) wanted the same things that their neighbors had, only bigger, today’s young customers want something different from their neighbors. In terms of merchandise, silver is a good way to start building a collection that appeals to young shoppers — the pieces are affordable, fun and fashionable, and they have good margins. In terms of marketing, the conventional wisdom is that you should go where the young are: on social media. But we’ve heard plenty of stories about jewelers who have done well with traditional media such as radio, billboards or fliers handed out at colleges. Final point: When you do get young customers in the store, keep it relaxed. “Millennials want their purchase experience to feel more like a collaboration and less like a confrontation,” Pam Danziger noted in a recent report for her marketing company Unity Marketing. That means going easy on the lectures, keeping the presentation fun and engaging, standing on the same side of the case and being open about prices. They are going to price-check you on Google anyway.

We need to spruce up our sales floor. What area should we target first?

Larry Johnson is partial to a good showcase; he spent most of his career working as a manager for a showcase manufacturer. But if you have dollars to spend and want to invest in an area that will make an immediate and powerful impact, he recommends targeting your lighting. “Showcases are like your best white shirt. You can always accessorize them but the truth is they haven’t changed much in the past 40 years. Lighting, however, can make a huge impact and the technology has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, especially LED lighting.” More light on your merchandise and feature displays, and less everywhere else will create drama in your store. It will attract customers to browse, and boost sales. And it may very well pay for itself in energy savings in four or five years.

Do I have to pay severance to an employee I am letting go?

There is no requirement in the Fair Labor Standards Act that obliges you to pay laid-off workers. Depending on the state you are in, however, you might be legally required to provide severance if:

  • you signed a written contract stating that severance would be paid.
  • you stated in your personnel policies that such payments would be made.
  • your store has a history of paying severance.
  • you made an oral promise to the employee.

As for whether you should, if the employee has done nothing wrong, it’s not a bad idea. Such sweet farewells soften the blow of being terminated, and a happier former employee is a less litigious former employee.

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Remember though, if you do decide to pay severance, treat your employees equally. If you’re less than evenhanded, you risk being sued for discrimination.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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