It’s no secret that it’s hard to keep a seasonal business earning enough to stay open year-round. For some seasonal businesses, these slow, lagging seasons provide enough motivation to close up shop during the intervening months. But if you can manage to stay open all year, you will be building towards a niche for yourself that allows you to make a profit all year long.
- Plan ahead for your downtime. You probably already know, even if it’s your first year in business, when your downtime will be. Whether you operate at a seasonal resort that is based on summer activities or you sell something seasonally specific like snow cones, you should be able to predict when business will be slow. If you aren’t sure, ask around at other businesses or in local business associations. Find out about what events are going on in your community during this time. Halloween parades and Christmas parties and other little special events could provide a non-seasonal uptick in profits.
- Prepare for how you will use those long off-season stretches. Did you notice a problem in how your store operated during the busy season? Maybe your layout isn’t intuitive or a section of your store just doesn’t look as good as the rest? The off-season is a great time to address these kinds of problems to make sure that your peak season goes off without a hitch. If you can’t come up with anything that needs changing, take the off-season as your time to reflect on how you can capitalize on your marketing efforts to make the off-season time pay off.
- Think about why your returning customers like your business. What do you offer to the community that’s really special? Is it something nostalgic? Something funny? Something unique? Something important? Whatever it is, think about what that appeal is and then craft your marketing strategies around it. For example, if you think your business has a nostalgic appeal for your customers, take advantage of that by redesigning your logo and store to appeal to nostalgic or vintage sensibilities. If you offer something unique like the biggest ice cream sundae in town, think of some ways to play that up on your advertising.
- Come up with new product offerings that can either complement what you are already offering or provide a suitable contrast for the off-season. For example, Tipsy Elves was a company that specialized in making ugly Christmas sweaters. To capitalize on year-round business, they moved into novelty patriotic clothing as well, which gives them a market for summer merchandising. If you can’t come up with a supplementary product for the off-season, try to think of opportunities for off-season branding. For example, if you operate in a beach resort town, put your logo on some umbrellas and display them near the window or front door on a rainy day.
- Find subtle ways to remind your customers about your business during the off-season. As a seasonal store, customers probably associate your business with a certain time of year and a certain kind of memory, so you should try to identify what those associations will be and target some appropriate marketing. For example, partner with local hotels to offer a coupon to customers who book at their hotel a few months in advance. Be sure that you are connected with similar local businesses on social media. Build up your website with pictures and happy customer quotes to give your audience a good impression should they start getting in the seasonal mood and look up your business.
- Use your social media platforms to offer updates that will be useful and interesting to your target demographic without being overwhelming. For a seasonal business, you don’t want to be constantly reminding your customers about your services out of season as it can become excessive very easily, but it does make sense to offer well-timed and appropriate updates that will serve as occasional and poignant reminders, potentially in a way that appeals to a sense of nostalgia. For example, remind them of the fun of Christmas as summer is coming to an end.
Of course, you will also need to plan your budget carefully so that it allows for some sustainability, but with the right frame of mind and the right preparedness, you can start coming up with a good schedule that will allow you to grow and stay afloat in the coming years.