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. This can create issues around staffing, warehousing, inventory and cash flow to name a few. But, it is indeed possible to excel at a seasonal business with the right understanding and some handy tips.
Seek to understand
So you understand that your business is seasonal, but do you understand the ins and outs of its cycles? It is important to understand what and how much usually sells in the low-peak months compared to the high-peak months. Is this consistent over years? If there is not enough data to analyse with a new company, then consider doing some market research and closely inspect the competition or industry leaders. When you understand your company’s retail cycles, you are in a far better position to manage them.
Plan, plan, plan
You cannot and should not underestimate planning. The low-peak months should be used for analysing historical data and trends to help plan for the upcoming season. This relates to inventory as well as staffing, advertising, sales and discounts. And then once the high-peak season has begun, carry on adjusting the plans to suit what is happening in real time. Planning is everything!
It can be a gift to have the low-peak months in a seasonal business to give you time to plan and prepare inventory for the impending high-peak season, however it may also be beneficial to the company to investigate an alternative income stream that would be in demand in the slower months. Despite needing to ensure the core product or service remains your focus, diversification can be a great way to invest your time during the off-peak period.
Look after your people
In a seasonal business, short-term contracts are inevitable. However, this should be managed by projecting staffing needs ahead of time and being honest in your interactions with your staff and how long contracts are to last for. Despite seasonality being a challenge to income, staff will appreciate your honesty.
Build a relationship, be consistent
In a seasonal business it can be easy to let the customer relationship be solely based on making sales during the high-peak season hype. However, it is important to keep up communication even during the low-peak season. Brainstorm creative ways to keep them engaged and build a community so that when the sale period begins, they are primed with knowledge, loyalty, desire and cash to visit your store.
Adapt to survive
Do not be afraid of changing what you do to make it through the slower months. Just because you have always done something a certain way, does not mean it needs to continue, when to do so would be jeopardising the company.
In the slower months it could be worth considering shorter opening hours or select days of business. You may think this would result in even less income especially in a slow period, but you could be wrong. To keep a store open and running, even with no foot traffic, incurs fixed costs like electricity bills or staff wages that must still be paid. Consider ways to keep the outgoing costs down while still maximising on any income you can make.