You can do more than just fly south for the winter
From stores that sell Christmas decorations to surf rental shops on the beach, there are tons of businesses that are highly affected by seasons. Especially for companies that cater to tourists or weather-dependent activities, running a seasonal business can be thrilling one month and completely dead the next. Here are a few ideas to keep your business profitable during your off-season.
1. Pivot your existing networks and materials as much as possible
If you’ve built up a customer base, suppliers and business networks, there’s no need to watch them all leave while your business is in its off-season. If you are bringing in a new product or idea for your off season, try to use as many of your assets as possible. For example, if you’ve got a tour company that has its highest market for walking tours in summer, consider offering tours in winter that specifically stay indoors - like a ghost tour or a pub crawl. You can use the same staff you’ve already trained, and market to the same customers who are in the area and looking for activities to do. Or, if you’ve got a Halloween costume store, you can look to theaters and other performance groups to sell costumes and props to in other months. The more you’re able to stick to your existing inventory and staff, the less transition and overhead you’ll have.
2. Diversify what you have on stock for new product offers
That being said, sometimes there’s only so far you can stretch your existing seasonal inventory. If you have a lease for your own space, you can consider changing what you have on stock and selling more relevant products. This business, for example, switched from ice cream to coffee and food when the season changed. You still have assets, like your space, location, and networks; so even if your business looks totally different from one season to the next, you’re not starting from scratch.
3. Pop-ups: Low-risk, low overhead
One way to minimise your expenses even during your high season is to have a pop-up store. You can tailor your products and sales strategy to be easy to move around. Stands at markets, short-term rentals or festival tents are great spaces for many different kinds of pop-up stores. If you run a seasonal business, you can use the advantage of being able to operate anywhere to sell where you get business. Rather than having to deal with high overheads for low business in a long-term lease, use a low-risk pop-up store to travel around and follow the season. Get a bit of extra help with Shopify POS, so you can continue managing your stock as if you were in one place.
4. Make business decisions that work with seasonal changes
Especially staffing and inventory decisions. If you know you’re not going to need as many hands on deck during the fall and winter for your beachwear company, hire seasonal or temporary employees from the get-go. Think about groups of people that might be more interested in seasonal jobs, like students, retirees or recent arrivals. Be clear about the job expectations and the length of the job. It can be hard to make forecasts about how much inventory you’ll need, so think about where you might be able to store extra inventory for long periods of time.
5. Don’t stick to your time zone
One of the beauties of selling online is that you’re unrestricted in how far away you can sell. Even for businesses that are primarily based in one spot -- like a hotel or restaurant -- there are often specialty items you can sell online. You can also use an online store to advertise to potential visitors who are in a different season (winter break in Australia is high summer season in North America and Europe).
Selling internationally is a great way to gain a revenue stream that can keep you afloat, and to find new customers to come during the rest of the year. Consider which payment gateways you’ll need for your target countries, as well as international shipping rates and whether or not there are any special changes you’ll have to make to your branding or prices to appeal to a different market.
6. Use low-season time to brand, market and develop your business
When you’re at the peak of high season, it might feel like you have no time to do any business development except for selling. Use your slow season to do as much of your marketing, brand development, trade shows, fundraising and planning as you can. You can even use that time to set up marketing schemes and advertisements to run automatically during your high season, when you don’t have as much time to sit down on a computer and write tweets and emails.
7. Maintain visibility throughout the year
Using your off season for business development links to the next principle. You don’t want to be forgotten during the opposite season. Use those months to creatively stay engaged with your customer base, and build anticipation for the next time they visit. Whether that be getting featured in the media, using photos and videos you collected to create online ad campaigns, or showing presence at related industry events -- you want to stay memorable and engaged throughout the year.
8. Partner with another company to create special offers
Sometimes offering Groupons or other discounts isn’t quite enough to get the volume you need - but creating new offers and deals as packages could be the push you’re looking for. Exchange ideas with other local businesses to create a discount package that helps support both of you by bringing more customers to the area.
Looking for more ideas?
Elkfox can help you develop a marketing strategy to keep your seasonal business going all year. Talk to us today to find out more.