Christmas and after holiday sales are huge boons in just about any industry every year. But managing a successful business can be daunting at the best of times, let alone when you throw in seasonality and reduced income in the off months. Indeed, all of these factors can create challenges around staffing, warehousing, inventory and cash flow to name a few.
Yet, it is indeed possible to excel at a seasonal business with the right understanding. So how can you, as a business owner be better prepared to make-up for these shortfalls in cash flow and maximize peak seasons to boost sales? Here are a few pointers to get your started.
Plan like your life depends on it
Competition is cut throat in the lead up to peak seasons. The very best thing you can do is prepare. First, start by analyzing the data. Conduct the necessary market research to inspect the competition, your own industry and ensure your business is up to snuff. You want to look at past sales and identify trends. Many folks use Google Trends as a way to better understand online sales patterns, specifically, to see which keywords led to increased website visits and sales. The idea here is to understand the retail cycle so that you are in the best position possible to manage the ebb and low throughout the year.
Next, use those low-peak months in a seasonal business to carefully manage your inventory as part of your overall business and as a way to maintain positive cash flows throughout the year. There are various ways to go about this, but according to BusinessKnowHow, since the largest asset on the balance sheet is inventory, you must develop detailed sales and inventory plans before the season begins, use those plans to guide your merchandise purchases, and think of them as benchmarks in-season to guide your progress.
During this planning period, you might consider alternative income streams that would be in demand in the slower months. Of course, your core product or service remains your focus, but diversification can serve as a critical way to invest your time during the off-peak period. This is all about adapting to the changes throughout the year. So, don’t be afraid of actually implementing changes to your business during these slower months. For instance, it could be worth considering altering opening hours or select days of business. This doesn’t mean you will necessarily generate less since you incur fixed costs like electricity bills or staff wages that must still be paid.
Optimize the fever
When it is peak time, you need to optimize the fact that customers are in a buying craze. During those months and weeks before peak seasons, the very best thing you can do is offer more and think strategically to maximize as a business during this time. You want them thinking “Yes, of course you need to buy that chocolate with these Valentine's Day flowers” or “Wow, I get my Christmas item gift wrapped for free if I buy today?”. You get the idea. Just tempt them to buy more. You might take stock of your hours to support this. Do you need to make an adjustment to them when demand is highest? Again, look at past sales data to make this call. Perhaps seasonal hires or longer hours for existing staff would make sense the month of December.
Often times, buying more is as simple as reminding customers about upcoming events in obvious places throughout the store, such as at the cashier, the storefront, and particularly online. Indeed, how often do we forget that mother’s day card until we see a special card section for it? It is for this reason that places that sell seasonally, often benefit greatly by simply having a calendar of events throughout the year visible to serve as a reminder for buyers.
But of course, once you get that customer in the door, don’t just rely on what they see or have seen. You want your staff in on the action since they are the ones who are going to be interacting with customers. “Just to let you know, today you get 15% off for all chocolate eggs ahead of Easter next weekend,” said the door greeter to every customer stepping foot in the confectionery shop. Get them incentivized with commissions during the peak season if you can swing it.
You need to be the biggest and best promoter of your seasonal business. So, start by picking the ways you want to go about promoting whatever it is your sell through social media, email marketing and online marketing. Then, engage your customers with messages in the run up to season. Hashtags and witty promotional messages work, but you need to create an overall strategy. Next, as a way to get actual foot traffic in your store or purchases on your website, be sure to offer exclusive store promotions and offers. Ensure your displays are bold and interesting, yet simple and to the point. Keep the messaging clear and ensure your products are easy to locate.
While peak seasons are the focus, just as important if not more, is to keep up promotion and communication during the low-peak season. Engage and build a community so that when the sale period begins, all those keen buyers are primed with knowledge, loyalty, desire and cash to visit your store and buy, buy, buy.
We hope these top tips have been helpful. Our aim is that no matter the season, you stay on top and manage the changing tide like a pro.