For seasonal businesses with big peaks and valleys in traffic and order volume, the dreaded off-season looms nearer like the piano note from Jaws. Those months don’t have to cause heart palpitations, though.
With a little preparation, the period when your seasonal business is off peak can be a relaxing time for business owners to assess the year, plan for next season, and get some R&R.
There are two approaches when it comes to preparing for your off-season stretch, with the dividing line being whether or not your business is open year round.
My Business Is Open Year-Round
If your business is open all seasons of the year, then your approach is all about accruing and managing expenses.
Rent & Utilities:
You have to start by identifying and planning for all of your off-season expenses, like rent and utilities. Many commercial landlords will allow you to negotiate your rent and front load the expense into your busiest season.
In this way, your rent expense ebbs and flows throughout the year with your business and revenue. This is especially prevalent with common area maintenance (CAMs).
Events & Promotions:
You can also run promotions and sales to get people back in during the off-seasons. Resorts are great at this; they are always running promotions in the off-season to get their customers back for this event or that deal.
Look for other seasonal businesses in your area who may be interested in partnering up to sweeten the offer, creating a bigger incentive for customers.
Staff & Shifts:
If your business normally runs two or three shifts in peak season, see if you can adjust off-season hours of operation so that you only have to run one shift. If there’s a way to save on full or part-time employee wages without sacrificing any incremental sales you’re able to drive through events, promotions, and partnerships, then all those dollars are an incremental bonus.
Can you invest more in your online presence during the busy season? If so, then in the off-season your customers can order from you online or make reservations from home.
You can also be asking for customer information during the busy season, like their email address, and communicate with them during the off-season through a newsletter or promotional blast email.
This tactic not only increases the likelihood that customers will order from you online, but it also builds the relationship throughout the off-season, ensuring that they’ll stop in when the busy season gets back in swing.
My Business Is Only Open Part Of The Year
If you shut down for a part of the calendar, then your approach is to eliminate as many costs as possible during those months.
Rent & Utilities:
See if you can pause any active contracts, like your utilities, during your off-season months. Any dollars saved here can be reinvested online or in preparation for the peak season.
If you can build up your website and online commerce potential, then you can drive sales even while you’re closed. You only need to keep the lights on enough to reserve product, make appointments and reservations, or make deliveries.
A good rule of thumb is to do a soft-open at least three or four weeks before your peak season begins to get rolling. It’s good to stress test all aspects of your operation and your logistics before it gets super busy. One fun way to do this is by throwing a small soft-opening party with your best customers or family and friends.
If you haven’t squirreled away enough nuts for the off-season ahead, then that’s the time to judiciously use a line of credit or alternative funding to get through the slow months. We say “judiciously” because you don’t want to start your busy season already in a financial hole.
If you can demonstrate that your business consistently generates revenue and performs well season after season, then getting financing to bridge your off-season won’t be difficult.
Curious how alternative funding could help your business this off-season? Reach out to one of our expert Funding Navigators today for a free conversation, or check out our latest infographic on Your Biggest Funding Questions.