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Make this 2017 Fourth Quarter WORK for 2018

You spend months preparing in anticipation of the ominous “4th Quarter”.  It’s here again, amidst hurricanes, floods, and fires --- December is just around the corner.  This article is written with the intent of encouragement of what’s ahead and strategically planning 2017 to help set the course for 2018.

Let’s consider the major contributors of your 4th Quarter and let’s see how what you do this year could positively impact next year.

SALES
We find the majority of store’s close rate is actually much lower than what you might first think.  Referring specifically to new product sales, most owners estimate their close ratio is 6 in 10 when actually is closer to 3 in 10.    We encourage you to run a personal test in your store.  Step out onto your sales floor and make note of the next 10 people who come through your front door.  Did they come for a repair pick up or drop off?  Did your associates show product while your customers were waiting on the repair?  Did the customer look through your cases with an interest in purchasing or were they a walk by – just browsing.  Most importantly, how many of these 10 potential customers did you close with the purchase of a new piece of jewelry?  Is your close rate as high as you thought?  Consider this, if you increase 3 in 10 by just one more sale to 4 in 10 that will increase your close ratio by 10% ---but it’s a percent increase in your sales by 33.3% that’s substantial!  Who couldn’t use a more than 30% increase in sales next year?
Now - 2017
The information you will collect from this brief, unannounced survey of your staff and customers will direct you as to what you can do immediately to improve your sales this fourth quarter.  Throughout the upcoming months repeat this process periodically and note how your additional training and store meetings are causing your close ratio to increase. Naturally, the closer you get to the end of December the easier the sale so be sure to date each observation time.
Later - 2018
Use the information you gained from watching your staff during 4th Quarter to shine a light on the areas where they need additional training to improve their selling skills and close ratios.  Repeat the process throughout the year to track improvement.  Lastly, at the same time next year conduct the same observations, hopefully revealing your improvement over 2017. 

MERCHANDISE
Now - 2017
As customer traffic begins to pick up and you make personal calls to prepare wish list, note what your customers ask for first.  Of course the goal, if you don’t have exactly what they are seeking is to help them find an alternative favorable selection from your inventory, but start a “customer’s seeking notebook”.  Have your associates make notes as to what customers specifically states they were looking for.
Later - 2018
Use your “customer’s seeking notebook” as a buying guide.  Did your customer define their search as vaguely as “something around $500”?  Or did they tell you more specifically, I want a particular brand or a certain type of bracelet as an example.  Either way, whatever they were looking for that you didn’t readily have use this as a potential buying guide for next year.

ADVERTISING
Now - 2017
Certainly, your advertising is well planned and ready to kick off the 2017 season.  This year be determined to learn what worked and what didn’t.  Be diligent about collecting the important information about what brought your customer in.  Many of your POS Systems will allow you to make a notation and ask the customer what brought them in.  You are looking for specifics when your associate asks this question! The answer is not, “Well it’s Christmastime”.  You want to know details and it’s OK to ask…  “What reminded you to allow us to make your gift purchasing special this year?”  This will tell you if your associates are calling your customers or what media is working.  If the answer is for example, “I saw your billboard and it reminded me of you.” Ask WHICH billboard.  This information you have the opportunity to collect over the next two months could save you thousands of dollars in advertising or drive your business significantly next year by knowing clearly what is and what is not driving your business.
Later - 2018
Now that you know that no one commented on your billboard on the bypass, perhaps it’s time to either change it or take it down.  That TV ad that you ran – not a single person mentioned.  Either you have the wrong media buy and are on the incorrect channels or your frequency is not enough.  If you learned that the mailer you sent out with a coupon was responsible for a major part of your business than certainly that is something that you want to repeat.  Which dollar amount or offer was most effective and redeemed the most?  Whatever the case may be, learning from your 2017 4th Quarter can make your advertising dollars go much farther in 2018 by strategically responding to what you learned.

Remember, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.  The information you gather in these upcoming months can make you more profitable, more effective and more efficient in 2018.  Don’t miss the opportunity.