Running a seasonal business has its challenges — from inconsistent sales cycles and cash flow to remaining top of mind with customers in the off-season. With the right strategy, however, seasonal business owners can position their operations for success throughout the year. Follow these four tips:
1. Plan, plan, plan.
Make sure you are completely familiar with the ebb and flow of your industry, that you are open the first possible day, and that you operate until the very last possible moment. If you are a new business owner, you can learn from industry publications and similar businesses. If you already have some seasons under your belt, you can analyze data from your point of sale (POS) system to help identify store traffic and sales patterns, to help you plan purchasing and staffing levels for different times of the year.
2. Manage cash flow.
It’s also essential to maintain a firm grip on money matters. Cash flow may be plentiful for a few months, but sparse at other times of the year. Plan for how you will handle lean times. Make sure you have enough cash to cover taxes, service agreements, finance charges, and any other recurring expenses, such as rent and utilities. Smart seasonal business operators may negotiate extended payment terms with suppliers, which can also help when you want to stock merchandise before peak season.
Applying for a business loan can also help with working capital in the short term. Seasonal business owners can obtain advances against future inventory through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) “Seasonal Line” short-term working capital loan program.
3. Remain productive during the off-season.
What you do during the off-season can increase your business’ potential for profitability during the peak period. You can use this time to give your establishment a facelift with a fresh coat of paint, adjust the décor and displays, and make any necessary repairs to equipment, fixtures, lighting, or plumbing.
But that’s not all. You can use this time to evaluate and adjust your merchandise mix or your menu, brainstorm on new marketing campaigns, or analyze the competition. Some business owners get so busy working “in” their businesses that they never get the opportunity to work “on” their businesses. Take advantage of this built-in time to make your business a success.
The off-season is also prime time for continuing education and staff development. This also gives you the chance to stay in touch with them and retain your best employees season after season.
4. Stay front and center with customers.
Don’t let customers forget about your seasonal business during non-peak times. Using your POS system, create a mailing list and send periodic updates about plans for the upcoming season. Send special offers to entice them back for your next opening and to take advantage of special offers. A customer loyalty program can also help keep your business top of mind with customers.
Seasonal business owners face challenges, but also enjoy advantages with a “now-open-for-the-season” schedule. With careful planning, financial stewardship, and use of time, your seasonal business can be a success year after year.