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When Is the Best Time To Bring On Holiday Temps, And More of Your Questions Answered

And cut the commission on a discounted sale? It’s not that straightforward.

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Should I lower the commission for goods sold at a discount? I don’t want a price cut to be an associate’s opening gambit.

That sounds reasonable, but such an approach will often work against your interests, especially when it comes to slower selling merchandise, says store consultant David Geller. After all, if the item really is a “dog,” it probably requires more desire to sell it rather than less. And cutting commission on the item is definitely not the way to increase the salesperson’s motivation. “Sales staff should be allowed to sell at a discount with no reduction of commissions … up to a certain point,” says Geller. In a straight structure, he notes, the salesperson is already motivated to sell at the highest rate possible. The more they discount, the more they lose. However, you should set limits to discourage overzealous discounting if the item in question is a standard product. If the salesperson discounts more than 20 percent, Geller suggests their commission be reduced by half.

When is the best time to bring on temp sales staff for the holiday season?

Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts believes the most sensible and cost-effective approach to seasonal hiring is to begin the process in early- to mid-October, with new hires brought on board no later than Nov. 1. An early start gives you a better chance of finding quality people and also a reasonable amount of time for training and team assimilation. “The additional payroll up front (paying new hires to work before they are needed) is a small investment when compared with the potential sales gain brought by well-trained associates functioning as part of a high functioning team,” Peterson says.

Before you hire anyone — at any time — take an inventory of the skills and abilities you have and determine what you really need. Ask yourself what your best people do best. Set up a schedule that puts them in position to do those things and hire help for the rest.

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This is also a good time to review the way things are done in your store, adds small business strategy consultant Andrea Hill of Hill Management. “If people are doing one task multiple ways, it doesn’t just ring alarm bells for quality; it also means you’re spending more time and money training new people,” she says.

She urges you to make sure your staff agrees on the one way to do things. “Don’t confuse new people by exposing them to two or three different ways to do each task,” she says.

How can I ensure a successful men’s shopping night?

As Abe Lincoln put it, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” That pretty well sums up the recipe for event success, says the marketing team at Judith Ripka Fine Jewelry, whose Cigars and Scotch Shopping Nights at their New York stores regularly attract 50 or more men.

By keeping updated records throughout the year of the client’s wish list, her husband’s contact info, and important occasion dates, sales associates can study their invitation lists and be prepared on the night of the event, knowing exactly what to show to each guy who comes in.

In terms of timing, men tend to shop later for all holidays, so shoot for the second week of December. If weather might become a factor, leave enough time to reschedule.

It also helps to know who among your clients has extra social clout. For example, look through your list for a spouse whom you know well. Encourage him to bring friends, colleagues and family members, or offer him an incentive, such as a gift card, for doing so.
Other tips:

  • Send personalized email invitations with a photo of exactly what the client has already selected. It could be an added enticement to show the husband how easy the process will be.
  • Offer special gift-wrapping for the evening with a designated wrapper to keep the check-out process moving smoothly.
  • Employ models who will wear major pieces or try on the husband’s selection.
  • Consult the local community calendar for conflicting events that could impact attendance.
  • Choose a local liquor store and use it for all of your events and gift-giving throughout the year. Find out if it will accept returns on any unopened bottles from your event.

And, of course, check to see if there are any restrictions against serving alcohol in your store.

As for the event details? Since cigars and Scotch are the focus, food is simple — bite-sized, room temperature and “nothing drippy.”

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How can I control my store’s internal grapevine to keep gossip to a minimum and ensure the atmosphere remains as positive as possible?

You can’t really “control” a grapevine – they come as naturally to groups of humans as the need to bond with co-workers. Indeed, the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar has argued that gossiping and small talk are the equivalent of grooming behavior among apes. “The evolutionary function is to smooth relationships and indicate willingness to trust,” he says. Those are good things. You can, however, ensure that the information being passed around the office is accurate and generally positive. To do that, says Andrea Waltz, founder of Accelerated Performance Training and co-author of Unlocking The Secrets Of Retail Magic, share information broadly, anticipate your employees’ need for information and answer questions before they start asking. You can get help managing your in-house grapevine by going to those associates who have the respect of the rest of your team. “If there is something significant that needs sharing, be sure to hold a meeting as quickly as you can. That way you can take control, answer all questions and take the air away from the little flames that could have resulted from the situation. In short, be as truthful as possible,” says Waltz.

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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Celebrate Your Retirement with Wilkerson

For nearly three decades, Suzanne and Tom Arnold ran a successful business at Facets Fine Jewelry in Arlington, Va. But the time came when the Arnolds wanted to do some of the things you put off while you’ve got a business to run. “We decided it was time to retire,” says Suzanne, who claims the couple knew how to open a store, how to run a store but “didn’t know how to close a store.” So, they hired Wilkerson to do it for them. When she called, Suzanne says Wilkerson offered every option for the sale she could have hoped for. Better still, “the sale exceeded our financial goals like crazy,” she says. And customers came, not only to take advantage of the going-out-of-business buys and mark-downs, but to wish a bon voyage to the beloved proprietors of a neighborhood institution. “People were celebrating our retirement, and that was so special,” says says.

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