Every seasonal business – whether it’s a haunted house attraction open on Halloween or a summer souvenirs shop on the beach – dreads the off-peak season. Engagement levels drop, sales decrease (and in some cases stop completely), and the store starts to resemble a ghost town.
But just because business is slow doesn’t mean you have to slow down with it. Here are some ideas to make the the off-season months work for you:
Build your community and establish thought leadership
Social media gives you tons of opportunities to connect with people all year round, so keep your blog and social accounts active.
Keep publishing blog posts and posting updates on all the channels your customers follow. Use your downtime to come up with great content that can educate your customers. Doing so lets you build authority, strengthens your community, and ensures that people will remember you when it comes time to do business again in the on-season.
Take a leaf off H&R Block’s playbook. The tax preparation company makes most of its revenue during tax season, but it publishes educational blog posts, videos, and guides all year round. And tax season or not, its social media pages remain active and continue to grow its fan base no matter what period of the year it is.
This keeps H&R Block top of mind for most consumers so it’s usually the go-to company for people when the tax months come along.
Find ways to bring in revenue all year round
Your sales don’t have to grind to a complete halt during the off-season. No matter what kind of seasonal business you have, there’s a good chance that you can still bring in some revenue even if it’s not your busiest time of the year.
One thing you can do is diversify your business and see if you can offer related or complementary products and services. Determine the other needs of your customers and find ways to fulfill them even when your main business isn’t in season.
Let’s go back to the H&R Block example. On top of seasonal tax preparation, it also offers a number of financial services including credit lines and payroll processing. This lets it provide value and earn revenue even during off-peak months.
Also, bear in mind that just because your business isn’t in season in one location doesn’t mean that there isn’t a demand elsewhere.
Case in point: Big Feet Pajama Co., a site that sells warm and snuggly PJs, typically experiences a decline in US sales during the spring and summer months. However, that doesn’t stop the company from thriving. Entrepreneur.com noted that the business makes up for the dip in sales from March through August by targeting countries like Australia and New Zealand, where fall and winter are in full swing.
According to Entrepreneur, Big Feet Pajama Co. capitalized on the opportunity by launching a targeted Australian AdWords campaign and by investing in a distribution facility down under to reduce shipping costs.
See if you can apply a similar strategy to your company. Are your products or services in demand in other parts of the world? Be sure to go after those opportunities.
Reach out to the media
Publications usually plan their articles months in advance, so if you want to land a magazine feature just in time for your industry’s peak season, you’ll have to reach out to reporters early on.
Take advantage of the slow months to gather intel on relevant reporters and publications. Get your hands on their editorial calendars so you’ll know exactly when to send your pitch.
Subscribe to services such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and be on the lookout for people doing stories in your industry.
Attend networking and educational events
Use the slow months to broaden your knowledge and network. Attend events that provide learning and networking opportunities so you can get to know people and trends in your industry.
Conferences, trade shows, and even local business events can help you gain new partnerships and skills that you can use in your business, so don’t pass up the chance to attend them.
Evaluate your business’ performance and plan for next season
Assess the performance of your company last season. What went right? Concretize the reasons behind your successes to determine which values and strategies should be continued.
Do the same exercise on the things that could’ve gone better. Were there situations that could’ve been handled differently? Again, nail down the reasons why. Take notes, so you’ll know what to avoid when business starts to pick up.
Some of the things you can look into include:
- Inventory – Which items were flying off the shelves? Which ones were snubbed by customers? Should you introduce new products? Itemize, evaluate, and then stock up accordingly.
- Staffing – Did you have enough hands on deck to handle customers during the busy months? Did any of your staff members shine or underperform? Take note so you know who to hire next time around.
- Suppliers – How much did you spend on supplies and services? Could you have gotten a better deal elsewhere? Use the off-season to do research on vendors, so you can switch or re-negotiate better contracts for next season.
- Maintenance – Is your store still in good shape? Are there any maintenance or renovation issues that you need the address? Take care of them when your business isn’t too busy.
Your business may be seasonal, but your commitment to it shouldn’t be. Put these tips into action and find ways to thrive all year round.
Do you own a seasonal business? What do you do during the off-season to stay productive and profitable?
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.