For seasonal businesses, off-season can seem like a daunting stretch of time. The buzz of customers grows quiet and life in the fast lane comes to a sudden stop.
But don’t think of this period as a drag on the business. Whether you run a paddleboarding company, farmers market stand, or a gelato shop, downtime can actually be productive, if not crucial for the long-term health of your business. It’s a time for reflection and evaluating the company’s priorities and direction. It’s also an opportunity for streamlining your systems, updating best practices and turning small business ideas into action plans.
Think of it as spring cleaning for your business. Here are a few tips for clearing out the cobwebs and freshening up in the slow season.
Spruce up your space.
Here’s something you won’t want to do during peak season: renovate. Off-season offers the perfect opportunity for making improvements, big or small, to make your space more welcoming and productive. Maybe it’s as simple as redesigning your in-store signage to help usher customers from piqued interest to completed purchase in no time. Whether it’s slapping a fresh coat of paint on your walls, doing a gut renovation of your restaurant’s bathrooms or reorganizing your shelving displays, scheduling these improvements when business is slow is the best way to update your place in the least intrusive way. And bonus: these changes give you the opportunity to have an unveiling event when you reopen.
Freshen up your marketing strategy.
And what better way to promote your revamped space than through a fresh, focused marketing campaign? Once your customer base dwindles, you’ll finally have the time to hammer out new promotion ideas and figure out how to attract new customers. Embrace your extra time and use it to develop multiple avenues for reaching a wider market. The risk you run during the off season is falling off the radar of your customers, which is why advertising and seasonal marketing during this time is so important. You’ll want to play up the opening and closing of your seasons with big promotions that hit the media and social media platforms your customers frequent.
Cut back on hours.
For yourself and your staff, cutting back on hours might actually come as a relief with a two-birds, one-stone benefits: you not only give everyone a break from the hectic peak-season life, you also reduce costs during a time with less revenue.
Focus on your staff.
Good employees are hard to come by. When you find them, hold on tight because the cost of hiring and training new folks takes a toll. But how do you retain staff members who leave at the end of the season? The best way is to offer incentives to return the next season. You can reward return employees with seniority status that grants certain perks like extra days off, a small raise, or product discounts. You can keep in touch with them during the off-season or in preparation of peak season with special professional development offerings such as team bonding activities or leadership training. Ultimately, you’ll want to find ways to boost staff morale, while honoring your bottom line. This is also an opportunity to address staff concerns, such as improving communication. By taking the time to prioritize your staff, you’ll reduce staff attrition and increase your chances of seeing familiar staff members return each season with a smile.
Evaluate your inventory.
You don’t want an oversupply of inventory during your off season. When things slow down, this is a good time to review your sales history. Take note of the typical quantity and mix of products you sell during your peak season, edit these figures for any growth or changes, and stock your inventory accordingly for the coming peak season. And for many businesses, the off season doesn’t mean shutting down completely. If that’s your shop, be sure to keep your customers’ favorite items in stock, so long as they’re not impacted by seasonal fluctuations.
Plan for the future and set goals.
Off-season is the perfect time for big-picture strategic planning and making a plan to take your business to new heights. You can analyze your business’ growth via Clover Insights. Challenge yourself to narrate what’s changing with your business, for good or for bad. What products have emerged as most popular? How are your revenues and costs tracking compared to last year’s benchmarks? What does your customer base look like? What can you learn from examining VIP customer activity? How does your business compare to similar businesses in your neighborhood? Is it time to recalculate your pricing? Because this requires heavy introspection and analysis, it’s best to do this when you’ve actually got the time to dream.
Running a seasonal business comes with unique challenges, and navigating the slow seasons can bring anxiety. But if you reframe those months as an opportunity, rather than a drag, you can dedicate that time toward activities that elevate your business in the long term.
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