By Michelle Graff

In re-capping 2010 with retailers, I had a number of them tell me that business was up during the course of the year, but all with one interesting footnote: Sales were off in the months when they would traditionally see a lot of business--say, for instance, May for Mother’s Day--while the store was bustling in other months when business is usually dead.

“There is no rhyme or reason anymore,” one Arkansas retailer who’s been in business for more than 40 years told me.

Similar comments came from a jeweler in Louisiana and a store manager in California. The California retailer conjectured that the media might play a role, with consumers’ penchant for spending ebbing and flowing in tandem with the news about the stock market and unemployment.

The media, said industry analyst and Interactive Group President Jeff Taraschi, definitely has a greater impact on consumer spending these days. He said consumers today are “highly aware” of what celebrities wear to awards ceremonies--such as the recently-aired Academy Awards--thanks to the instant reports that pop up on the Internet nearly the same minute our so-beloved stars step onto the red carpet.

That can drive demand for a certain look or style just as, conversely, news about rising gas prices can cause consumers to clamp down on their spending.

“People who read are influenced by positives from the press and negatives from the press. I think that’s part of the equation,” Taraschi said.

But, he said, it’s not the whole story. He said the idea that retailers today don’t know how to anticipate what will be their busy months is “almost archaic.”

Today’s consumer is super-busy (though with what I’m not exactly sure since we have gadgets designed to make everything easier, but that’s probably a subject for another blog). People today want to “pack more into their life,” said Taraschi, so the idea of being able to shop by appointment or buy something online at the exact moment they have free during the day is ultra-appealing.

And while retailers shouldn’t completely abandon traditional forms of marketing, they do need to focus on being in touch with their customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They need to stop worrying about where all the Mother’s Day shoppers are in May or the engagement ring buyers in November and give people a reason to come into the store at any time. 

Do a blog, send out a newsletter every season introducing your new collections, get a Facebook page, Tweet, sell online--anything that helps you virtually connect with your customers and brings people in to the store. It’s a point that’s been made over and over to retailers but one that definitely bears repeating.

“[Jewelers] have to be relevant to people who want to shop on demand rather than waiting for occasions,” Taraschi said.

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