Seasonal businesses face the same challenges as year-round businesses but on a magnified scale. The off season can be a daunting prospect but seasonal businesses provide a lot of opportunity.
If your overall business idea and strategy is strong enough and you’re ready to put in the work, with a little bit of planning you’ll be able to take the strain away and build a seasonal business that succeeds year after year.
A seasonal business conducts the bulk of its trade at specific times of year. Outside of these periods seasonal businesses can either completely shut down, adapt products or services to the changes, or scale back operation hours. Seasonal business examples include a Christmas tree farms, skii resorts, and surf schools.
Downtime is when your business isn’t functioning as normal. For year-round businesses this could be because of equipment failures, personal matters, or an issue in the supply chain.
For seasonal businesses downtime refers to out-of-season periods when trade is either significantly quieter or over for another year.
Planning is crucial if you want your seasonal business to survive and thrive. Your plans for the off-season should be outlined before your business faces its quieter period.
The more prepared you are, the more likely your business is to survive and succeed.
Your plan should cover:
This can be outlined with pinpoint accuracy down to the week you’ll close, or be the month you intend to finish trading. If you’re not sure when this will be, you should instead outline the telltale signs that the season is over. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of investing money into your business that you won’t be able to recoup without customers.
Whether you scale back your hours, completely close up shop, or focus more on the online branch of your business, it’s up to you.
Think back to the last season and consider how you could improve performance and what you would do better. The off-season is the perfect time to refine your business or train your staff so see how you can use the spare time to better your business.
While you should be able to rely on the busy months to get you by, at some point you might have a particularly bad year. If that’s the case you need to have a clear plan of what you’ll do if you find yourself in a difficult situation. If hard times do come, you’ll at least know exactly what you need to do to get through.
There are a few things you can do during the busy season to prepare for downtime.
One of the best, and most obvious, ways you can prepare for downtime is to be smart with the money you make. For every sale you make, set a percentage of money aside to lean on during the off-season. This could cover things like operational costs, training, as well as your salary too.
During the peak season, evaluate what resources you don’t need during the off-season and where you can make savings.
If you have staff, you could look to employ them on a seasonal basis, if you have physical retail space, think about what you can do with it during the off-season.
If you choose to scale back operations during quieter periods, you can still attract customers by offering discounts. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic, just enough to encourage a steady stream of interest in your business.
You may not be open for some stretches of the year, but you should never stop marketing. Here are a few simple ways you can keep your marketing ticking over during the off-season.
It’s important that you stay in touch with your customers all throughout the year. You should be reminding them of what you sell and when they can come and buy it.
There are many different ways you can do this. Whether it’s through social media, email, or through your website, keep communicating with customers and they could back when you’re open again.
The off-season is the perfect time for you to get in touch with customers and ask them to leave reviews. If you have an email database and your customers have given you permission to contact them, you can email asking them to leave reviews. Alternatively you could post the link to Google or a different review website on social media.
As for what to talk about during the off-season, if there’s plenty of topics surrounding your products then use that as the basis for marketing or website content. For example a ski resort may post blogs about getting in shape for skiing and the best exercises to prepare you for a winter on the slopes.
You could also share updates of what you’re doing during downtime to prepare for the new season.
Off-season is also the perfect time to build the hype for when you do open again. Lure your audience in with teasers and early bird discounts to get them excited for the opening. If you have retail space that’s reliant on tourists, you could have a pre-launch event just for the locals to put your shop at the top of their mind during busy periods. Alternatively you could send discounts via email.