As you know, businesses come in all shapes and sizes and this is reflected in the fact that many do better during certain times of the year. These would typically be referred to as seasonal businesses.
Let’s say you sell bespoke jumpers. During the months of June and July, it's likely that sales for this type of item would be pretty small - unless you come across someone who likes the idea of being even warmer in the summer (unlikely but always possible). However during the winter, opportunities for making sales will undoubtedly be much greater. A business might specialise in BBQs or paddling pools - but as with the logic in the previous scenario - this venture will peak in the summer but dwindle during the colder months.
How can a seasonal business prepare for the inevitable quiet months? One obvious away to prepare is by:
During the quiet season, why would you want to pile up on stock that won’t be shifted? The answer is you don’t. Make sure that during the lean times, where business is slow and products are hard to sell, that you aren’t piling up with needless stock. If need be, you could put on sales to ensure that anything that hasn’t sold well can be done so relatively quickly. Don’t tie your cash up in something that will go to waste.
But it’s not just products you need to consider keeping track of. You also need to give serious consideration regarding:
It goes without saying that when it’s busy, you will need staff to help you deal with customers and orders. But what about when it’s not bustling, when there isn’t a consistent need for staff? Then you need to think about your hiring policy. Is it wise to be paying employees a regular salary when there isn’t enough work to keep them busy? Think about giving staff fixed term contracts or even allow them to work as contractors.
By doing this, you will only need to pay staff for when their work will be needed. This is another very good way to save cash during off peak times.
We referred to this earlier, but we will now talk about it in more detail. This one might sound obvious but just because it is, it doesn’t make it any less important. In your quiet season you should offer discounts on certain items. You will know that this is the time of the year where sales are more difficult, so this is a way to attract interest. You never know, this might win you loyal fans who will return during the busy period. Why not have a discount for one of your top selling items. Something you know has sold well and will do again. This will look like value rather than cheap discount on something tatty.
Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing anything. Take advantage of this time to focus on your marketing. Perhaps there is a new product that you are going to introduce for the summer which might perk interest amongst your loyal customers. Create interest and anticipation for this. Look at the way Hollywood does this with trailers for summer blockbusters. Think along those same lines and utilise the correct mediums for this. Talk about this on social media and in your emails and newsletters, so that your customer base is aware of what you are doing.
You could even create a ‘funky’ YouTube video to build up some hype. Get enthusiastic and you will make your audience excited. This is also a great way to keep in touch with your customers. If they liked what you offered before then there is a good chance they will come back for more.
We cannot tell you how common this issue is for small businesses. Too many find out the hard way that clients will often “take their time” to pay. This is not good, particularly if you’re looking to have a clear cash flow forecast. In your off season, it’s vital that anyone who hasn’t paid you does so. When incoming cash is limited, you will need to be able to budget with everything that you have. Don’t leave anything to chance. Chase the late offenders. You could even offer a small discount on anyone who pays you early. This is a big issue for small businesses and something we have spoken about extensively in our ways to tackle late payment blog.
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