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Tip Sheet

Tip Sheet: November 2008

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LABOR OF MIRTHMake It Fun

In the early years of the tech boom, Apple employees would come to work in T-shirts that said: “Working 90 hours a week — and lovin’ it.” Joel Hassler, the general manager at Rasmussen Diamonds in Racine, WI, has strived to build a similar you-never-knew-hard-work-could-be-so-much-fun ethos at his store. Last year, among the spiffs he organized for the holiday period were a Monopoly game (pick a card that sets goals to win a gift); lunch in the store on Saturday; a chair masseuse on The Longest Day (Dec. 21); “Product Closet” (hit your daily goal and pick a prize from a closet filled with Johnson Wax goodies); and a Get Out of Jail Card drawing each afternoon (winner gets to leave without helping close).

POLITICAL PARTIESGet In the Vote

Election day won’t win many votes for favorite sales day, but there’s potential for the imaginative store owner. Here are a few examples from 2004: At 7-Eleven customers could have their say by buying an “I’m voting for Bush” or an “I’m voting for Kerry” cup; Macy’s opened early to catch voters on the way to the polling booths, Colton RV had an Election Day sale ($500 of free gas), while Wal-Mart broadcast election coverage. Let your enfranchised mind run wild.

BALANCE INQUIRYDo Lunch

Free for lunch next Tuesday? Abe Sherman of the BIG buyers group suggests you take your banker out for a bite to eat. “Banks are not looking for any risk right now … they need cash, not loans! My concern is, that come Christmas, were you to pay down on your line, you may have to work through 2009 without it,” he writes in the October BIG Times newsletter. “If you have a line of credit, get a feeling about where (your bank) stands right now. Ask about their overall debt-to-equity position and how much pressure they are under to raise capital or cash.” He also suggests scheduling a chat with your accountant, who will likely know what your bank is doing with other clients.

ADVANCED PREPARATIONOrganize

Make a special effort to take care of errands and other personal obligations before the holiday season begins. “I’ve learned to prepare ahead of time,” says Georgia Stolte, a sales associate at Capri Jewelers in Richmond, VA. “So before Thanksgiving, I’ve done my Christmas shopping, paid my bills, and if I’m sending out any Christmas cards, I send them out then. December is my biggest month and I don’t want to be stressing out with personal stuff,” adds Stolte, who sold nearly $1.5 million worth of jewelry in 2007.

NETWORK PRE-PARTYConnect

It’s party season. Which means it’s also networking season. Keith Ferrazzi, co-author of Never Eat Alone, suggests taking a cue from your college days and bringing back the pre-party. If there’s a widely anticipated function in your social calendar, use the evening’s festive mood to your advantage. Call five people you know who are going to the party and invite them to meet at your place so you can go together. “Use this pre-party get-together to ensure you connect with some of your top targets for the night,” Ferrazzi says. Another option: Offer to be the designated driver.

RELIEF MARKETINGHuddle Masses

Wild idea No. 27 — a tip from the Statue of Liberty. Offer to take in those desperate, teeming masses searching for sanctuary, or in this case, a washroom. Remove those faded Visa and Master Card signs (everybody takes credit cards) and replace them with: “Yes, you may use our bathroom!” Fasten ads showing some of your best gift ideas on the bathroom wall.

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FOND FAREWELLCreate A Feeling

The most important part of a sale is the final moment: This is the point customers remember most how they felt during a transaction, says Ross Shafer, the author of Customer Empathy. “Caring about people is a differentiator that costs you nothing — yet contributes more to your bottom line than all other marketing efforts combined,” he says. This is especially so at Christmas when so many potentially new customers are in your store.

Abe Sherman is the CEO of BIG - Buyers Intelligence Group. BIG designs solutions for the merchandising challenges facing retail jewelers and manufacturers. BIG utilizes a data analysis tool, Balance to Buy, to help consult with clients and customize their individual experiences and results.

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Gone Fishin’ (Thanks to Wilkerson)

Whether you want to go fishing — or enjoy some of the other good things life has to offer — you can take a cue from Jim Adair and choose Wilkerson to run your retirement sale. After 38 years in business, Adair decided it was time to enjoy some free time. His Missoula, Montana store, Adair Jewelers, will stay in business but without him at the helm. It was the perfect opportunity to call in the experts in retirement sales. Adair says he spoke to a lot of people who have done retirement sales to help him make his decision and he chose Wilkerson. “Wilkerson seemed to have the best set up, the best organization, the most current marketing of any of them,” he says. “If you want to run a successful sale, you have too much money on the line to be screwing around with trying to do it yourself.”

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