Columnists

Squirrel Spotting: The Need for an Early Christmas

ColumnistsJul 27, 2020

Squirrel Spotting: The Need for an Early Christmas

With COVID-19 creating so much uncertainty, retailers need to get in the Christmas spirit sooner rather than later this year, Peter Smith writes.

peter-smith.jpg
Peter Smith is president of Memoire and Hearts On Fire. He is author of two books, “Hiring Squirrels,” and “Sell Something.” Connect with Smith on LinkedIn or at dublinsmith@yahoo.com.
In the 1947 classic “Miracle on 34th Street,” Edmund Glenn, playing Santa Claus, says to Maureen O’Hara’s character, “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”

While I generally share that sentiment, I have long resented the presence of Christmas decorations and signs about holiday deals in retail stores long before our annual apple-picking pilgrimage in the fall.

For me, it represented desperation at best and, at worst, predatory marketing.

The early-Christmas craze was not usually a thing in jewelry stores, but very much so at the larger big-box stores.

This year, you can throw that whole it’s-too-early-for-Christmas sentiment out the window; as far as I’m concerned, we can’t get into the Christmas spirit soon enough.

Black Friday is not going to be Black Friday. The idea that huge numbers of people will be excited about crowding into stores during a global pandemic is not likely to happen.

Cyber Monday is probably not going to be as important this year, given the shift to more regular e-commerce activity in recent months creating less need for an “event” on the Monday after Thanksgiving to accelerate e-commerce activities.

There has been some talk of creating an event for retailers around Oct. 10 (10/10), and certainly anything that galvanizes communication and creates awareness for the retail community would be very welcomed.

So, if things have changed to the extent that we can no longer expect a significant uptick in store visits in November and December, what should jewelers do about that?

In short, get in the spirit of Christmas, and get there sooner rather than later.

There is a fine line between predatory and pragmatic marketing and retailers need to be sensitive and empathetic, but we have no idea what the coming weeks and months will hold.

Expecting more than 20 percent of our business to arrive in December may not be a good strategy.

We obviously don’t have the luxury of knowing that retail will be fully open and operational given the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, including California, Florida, Arizona and Texas.

We have seen Apple and Saks Fifth Avenue, among others, start to close stores again, having just recently emerged from the first shutdown.

And, as of last Monday, indoor malls in California were closed and nonessential retail could offer curbside pickup only.

Independent retailers have shown remarkable resilience and grit thus far.

 


Through e-commerce, live-streaming, home delivery, curbside pickup, etc., most have managed to make lemonade from the worst kind of lemons.

That kind of tenacity and drive will be essential in appropriately and sensitively reaching out to customers to let them know that you have a plan to ensure their needs now and for Christmas will be taken care of, no matter what the retail situation is come holiday time.

The communication could be as simple as: “Given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we want you to know that we are here to ensure that your needs, from now through the holiday season, will be a priority for us.”

Retailers could then communicate some options for customers including:

  • Select and hold merchandise;
  • Delivery at a future date;
  • Options to place a deposit and pay later;
  • Gift with early purchase;
  • Private in-store appointments;
  • Curbside pickup at a future date;
  • Concierge service;
  • Touchless payment; and
  • Private events featuring special pieces from preferred vendors.
In many respects, the communication itself is the message. The content does not have to be ground-breaking or even that original. 

Proactively reaching out to customers to let them know you are thinking about their needs, their convenience and the fact that this coming Christmas will likely be more challenging than any before can be enough to help secure early holiday business.

The last point I will make is to stay aware of any developments that are driven by Amazon, the majors, or, as previously mentioned, if there is a push outside of jewelry to make 10/10 a thing. 

Attaching your own message to one that seems appropriate—especially if it has a spend against it—can make short dollars go a lot farther than they otherwise would. 

Unlike holiday movies in modern times, “Miracle on 34th Street” was not released at Christmas. It was, in fact, released in June of 1947. 

That early release date might serve as an interesting metaphor for jewelry retailing for Christmas 2020—start early and communicate often.
Peter Smithis an industry consultant, speaker, and sales trainer, and author of three books, “Hiring Squirrels,” “Sell Something,” and “The Sales Minute.”
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