There was a great article in Inc. magazine recently, which talked about seasonal businesses and how they get noticed during slow periods.
This is so relevant to so many businesses. Is your business in a summer or winter tourist town? Do you sell patio furniture in Minnesota where the season is three months long? Do you own a Christmas store that’s open all year?
All of these businesses typically will have a busy season and a slow season. The key is to even out the sales so that you’re not going through wild fluctuations and need to fund part of the slow period with profits from the busy period. Even if you’re not a seasonal business, Inc. offered up some great ideas anyone can implement to boost sales.
My brother-in-law runs a bike store in Wisconsin. They do amazing business during the spring and summer but the winters tend to be slower (especially in the January – March time period). So they are now selling skis and exercise equipment which fit nicely with the biking business – all revolve around exercise so it’s not a stretch to promote their customers from a summer sport into a winter sport like skiing. From there, the transition to exercise equipment is natural.
If you’re going down the route of bringing in additional merchandise, make sure you jump in with both feet. Bringing in a half-baked winter ski department isn’t going to get you the sales. You have to be the expert in whatever you’re selling.
There are other ways to capitalize on your off season without getting into a whole new merchandise arena as well.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Being a seasonal business requires that you work even harder for success.
The article in Inc. talked about six ways to capitalize on the off-season:
1. Promote your expertise – this is basically hosting events in the off-season to keep people coming into the store. As you know, when you host an event, you can count on additional sales.
2. Pick up the phone – A personal call to customers is one of the best ways to stay in touch. The call could be to see how they’re enjoying the product(s) they purchased, to tell them about an event, or special sale. It’s all about cultivating the relationship. Just make sure the script isn’t overly sales-y.
3. Look for ways to extend the busy season – Shoulder seasons can be built around the busy season. It just takes open ears to listen to what customers are asking for, then delivering on their requests.
4. Blog – especially about the big names in your industry – people love gossip. Learn what you can about the big guys, then help inform your customers about how they operate. Chances are your customers will appreciate the insight, which only bolsters your operating approach more and continues to build loyalty.
5. Schmooze with your most profitable customers – this goes without saying. I worked with a guy who gave his best customers the title of “whales.” Far from a derogatory remark, the name described how they shopped more often and bought more than any other customer. How are you rewarding your whales? Free events, free gifts, special sales just for them are ways to remind them that they’re special to you.