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The Best Time of Year to Hold a Sale, How to Keep Staff and More of Your Questions Answered

Retaining staff isn’t all about money.

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We spend a lot of time training staff. How do we keep them?

The good news — and the bad news — about retention is that it is not all about the money. A competitive salary is obviously important, but employee longevity is often more about other issues like the friendships people have at work, the opportunities to grow, the challenge and satisfaction they get from their career. And sometimes it’s about the benefits. Working out what keeps people engaged and happy can be difficult. One of the best ways to get such insights is “stay interviews.” Specifically, ask your employee: “Can you identify some of the things that could contribute to you doing the best work of your life?” or more simply “Please tell me why you like working here and what I can do better.” 

Establishing retention in a systematic way starts with your hiring process. Some people just aren’t cut out for working many years at one employer, especially a small one. Tell job candidates, “This is a long-term position for the right person. If you don’t see yourself here in three years, please tell me.”

What is the best time of year to have a non-holiday sale? And what about the worst? 

We put this to our 300-strong Brain Squad and the overwhelming take-away was “it depends”: on your client base, on local weather patterns, the school calendar, local tax holidays, etc.

April and May were the most commonly cited months, because many jewelers find this a good time to do a clearance sale ahead of the arrival of new inventory, and because customers often start receiving their tax refunds around then. The slower summer months from June through August were also popular, but not with everyone — some say too many clients take vacations at that time for an event to be successful.

What to do? Start testing.

What if I see a customer go to steal an item and then put it back?

Ain’t much you can do, says Rick Segel, author of Retail for Dummies. “The police don’t arrest people for contemplating shoplifting.” Just keep a close eye on them and hope they don’t come back.
My main jeweler has asked me if I’ll take on his 16-year-old son as an unpaid intern this summer to give him some experience. What are the legal ramifications of this? 

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  • The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has specific criteria governing unpaid intern programs. Among them:
  • The internship is for the benefit of the student.
  • The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.
  • The intern cannot be guaranteed a job at the conclusion of the training period.

If those conditions are not met, the intern is considered an employee and is entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay.

Our sales associates are on high commission rates but low base salaries. When summer comes, they ask for a lot of time off. I’d like to build up our summer business. What should I do?

Let them know about your plans to boost your off-season sales and be sure to ask for their input. But that alone may not be enough to keep their hours up — and for you to avoid an ugly showdown if you insist they work long hours through summer in a near-empty store. Your best bet, while sales remain low (put that in writing), is to hike the commission rate on any sales they close in July, August and September and hope that the increase in summer sales will more than offset the larger commission checks you’ll write.

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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Wilkerson Testimonials

A Liquidation Sale during a Pandemic? Wilkerson Showed Them the Way

For 25 years, Stafford Jewelers of Cincinnati, Ohio, was THE place to go for special gifts, engagement diamonds, high-end Swiss watch brands — in other words, the crème de la crème of fine jewelry. But this summer, the Stafford family was ready to retire. So, they chose Wilkerson to help them close up shop. “One of the biggest concerns was having the sale in the middle of COVID,” says Director of Stores Michelle Randle. Wilkerson gave the Stafford team plenty of ideas as well as safety guidelines, which they closely followed. “All of the employees felt safe, the customers coming in the door felt safe and we did a lot of business,” says Randle. How much business? “The inventory flew,” she says. Translation: They sold millions and millions of dollars-worth of merchandise. Randle calls it, “an incredible experience.” Would she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers who are thinking of thinning their inventories or retiring? “Everyone got more than what they expected out of the sale. You have to hire Wilkerson. They’re amazing.”

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