It’s Christmas time once again and the media for the last month or so has been going on and on about how the major retailers are starting earlier with their Christmas sales and promotions this year than they did last year. Hah! The big box retailers start earlier every year. Heck, in a few years they are going to stop promoting this Christmas and start promoting next year already. And, as per the trend of the last 10 years or so, the experts say that most people are going to buy the majority of their Christmas gifts online this year. Those big box guys have huge dedicated staffs devoted to address and balance out the online vs. brick-and-mortar mix. These retailers spend millions and millions of dollars to research and reach their customer base. So, how does an independent retailer like you and me figure it all out? Beats me!
The last few Christmas seasons, I’ve wondered what it would be like to have entered this industry at a different time than when I actually started this crazy run in the late ‘70s. I started in this industry way before computers were standard business equipment, so I was taught to do it all old school. Or, as it was known back then, the way it’s always been done. There hadn’t really been a huge change in the way businesses were run for decades. About the only big change back then was the introduction of quartz watches. But they were stocked, marketed, and sold just like the mechanical watches before them.
I wonder what it’s like for people that have only been in this industry for the last 4 or 5 years. These people never got to experience the highs of the Clinton presidency. Gold was cheap, money was cheaper, and the internet, cell phones, e-mail, texting, and the recession hadn’t come around yet.
As we enter this Christmas season, it befuddles so many of us out there about how to plan for and profit from this busy time of year. Way back in the ‘90s, it was pretty easy because we just did the same thing we did last year, and the year before, and the year before. Now every year is completely and remarkably different from the previous year. I sometimes wish I was in a business that catered to high school teenagers because that would be pretty easy. I’d just promote my product on whatever the app-of-the-day is at the moment and I could easily get their attention.
But, because my customer base is pretty much working adults, getting their attention gets a little more complicated. A lot of these people still read the newspaper every day, but not all of them. A lot of these people listen to the radio every day, but not all of them. A lot of this customer base uses Facebook every day, but not all of them. A lot of these people watch TV every day, but not all of them.
So, in a nutshell, the customer base that makes up the majority of my income doesn’t use any one media platform on a regular enough basis to devote the majority of my advertising budget to that discipline. And, what worked last year might be old news and won’t work this year. You probably won’t know that though until the last week of December when it’s too late to make a change.
Another thing I think a lot of people that have spent several decades in this industry struggle with is remembering how it used to be in the showroom before ‘browsing online’ became all of the rage. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines browse as “look[ing] at many things in a store, in a newspaper… to see if there is something interesting worth buying” as well as, “us[ing] a special program (called a browser) to find and look at information on the internet…”. The difference now is that you don’t actually see someone browsing your website so it’s hard to get an actual head count. But they are, none the less, still window shopping at your store.
Before the internet, customers would have to go from store to store to look at and compare pieces of jewelry, sometimes coming in 4 or 5 times before they made a decision. Now they will probably visit your website and several others 4 or 5 times before they make their decision. Then they walk in on December 20th, point to something on their phone, you pull it out of the case, wrap it up and it’s a done deal; 5 minutes tops.
Stuff like that just drives me crazy. I mean, I still made the sale. I spent a lot less time doing it. And everybody walks away happy. But once you’ve spent 25+ years dealing with the big crowds and the non-stop traffic, it still rattles me when sales are up but store traffic is down.
But, there’s one thing in today’s YouTube world that we can still bank on. Young people just don’t understand the lead time required to make that one-of-a-kind Christmas gift, coming in to special order it on December 21st. I live in a craftsman’s world and I’ve probably been sold out for this season since before Thanksgiving. To these last minute young men, I just tell them that the present isn’t the actual ring, the present is the fact that they have decided to finally buy her that ring after 5 years. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.
Good luck this season and I’ll see everyone in 2016.
And, speaking of Christmas presents, if you have someone on your list that enjoys my columns, my revised “It’s Supposed to be Funny” is now available at www.LuLu.com. This book is a collection of all of my columns through the years. Just punch my name into the search box and order away. And don’t wait until December 21st because they print and ship on demand. Please allow 2-3 weeks.
And, a quick note to all of the bench jewelers out there. With the winter here, don’t forget to order the Mary Kay Satin Hands Soap. It’s a great soap for your hands with a moisturizer built in that will keep your hands from cracking over the cold winter months. If you don’t have a Mary Kay rep, use mine, you can contact Venessa at: www.marykay.com/vmadrid1, e-mail: email@example.com, or Facebook: Venessa Madrid Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant.
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.