By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Working the business calendar in our retail world is like running a marathon or playing double overtime in the Super Bowl.

Although every day seems to have new challenges and some days never seem to end, the Puppies & Kittens Hallmark calendar in my WFH office shows there’s only six weeks until the start of Q4. Another sure sign of the holiday selling season to come: My local Frugal Hoosier Market is already removing the back-to-school displays and setting out Halloween candy.

Just like in athletic competitions, the first-place runner isn’t twice as good as second place, and every player in the Super Bowl is at the top of their profession. Often, it’s a few inches or a split second that decides the winner.

Whether your business is having an All-Star year or you’re looking to climb out of the basement, the fourth quarter is an important time to adjust your game plan and put in the extra effort, even if it’s a bad day or you’re way behind on your plan.

If you’re looking to set your personal best this year, here are a few areas to focus on:

Closing the Sale

Many big-ticket retail stores have seen a drop in foot traffic this year. The good news is that incoming shoppers are looking to buy! It only takes a 2 percent increase in close rate to make up a 10 percent traffic loss.

Being a good closer is not easy, otherwise everyone would do it. However, the biggest reason for not closing a sale is not asking every shopper to buy. Store owners and managers who set a non-negotiable rule that sales associates must ask for the sale before a shopper leaves, tend to see high conversion rates and greater sales volume. Owners and managers who don’t care whether their sales teams ask for the sale just lose.

The pitch doesn’t have to be fancy; asking a simple “Would you like to start your order now?” or “Will this be cash or credit?” will put your business ahead of the pack.

Average Sale Per Guest

The rule of retail on how to increase sales used to be “Sell more shoppers or sell a little more to each.” I will add another option: Abhor zero sales presentations.

Yes, you can build your average ticket by adding more products to each purchase. But each time you ring the register with a customer instead of walking out a no-dollar shopper, you raise the average sale per guest closer to the goal line. Imagine your 2021 sales if you had sold a $50 item to every shopper who walked out without buying.

There are no small sales, just small salespeople. Try to sell everybody something. A pillow, a sheet set, or any other accessory item. Not only will you increase sales volume, but you’ve converted a shopper into a buyer.

Sharpen Your Tools

Professionals use the best tools available and choose the right tool for the job. Marathon runners have the best shoes and nutrition; doctors have the latest medical devices; and you can only hope that your lawyer and accountant use the best research and spreadsheets.

In retail, it sometimes seems like the best tools are often scattered, unused or shopworn. Sales associates who win organize and use every tool they can in the battle for scarce retail dollars. Check to make sure your toolbox includes essential items like demo units, accessories and printed copies of your promotions. 

You’ll complete your toolbox with complete knowledge of credit terms, competitors, inventory, outgoing delivery slots and merchandise closeouts.

Q4 is all gas, no brakes time. Going into the fourth quarter (or ninth inning, final turn or third period) with the best plan, energy, execution and tools does not guarantee success. Every top player in any field will have them too. This is where the game of inches counts.

But if you don’t show it, tell it and sell it with the right plan this upcoming quarter, you’ll lose by a mile.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at

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