Keeping your business on track during the slow months

Learning how to handle the busy and quiet times

Seasonal businesses are determined by a number of triggers, such as summer and winter, Christmas, school holidays and the end of the financial year. There are two main kinds: the business that closes completely during the ‘off season’, and the business that stays open all year but has quiet months.

If your business is a seasonal one, it’s important to learn how to maximize your profits during the busy times, so that it’ll see you through the lean patches.

For most businesses – especially those that are retail-based – one of the busiest times of the year is coming up – Christmas. Everyone’s planning or doing their Christmas shopping, and taking their families on holiday, so it’s a boom time for retailers. What’s important is knowing how to make the most of this increase in sales, so that the business can better weather the subsequent quiet months.

What to do when it’s quiet

As with most things, successfully negotiating any area of the business cycle is down to planning. When the business is going through a busy time – such as the upcoming Christmas holiday – it’s still important to look ahead to the lean months, which are the perfect time to get organized.

Take stock and get the inventory up to scratch

There’s no point hitting the season without adequate levels of stock. Make sure that you’ve got plenty to kick off the season with, and that you’ve checked with your suppliers and made sure more is available when you need it.

So when things are quiet, take the time to:

  • Conduct a thorough review of your inventory. Look back to last year’s sales data and pinpoint what items were most popular. Have you got enough of them to face the next busy time?
  • Talk to your customers and conduct informal surveys. Is there anything you don’t sell, that they’d like to see you stock?
  • Meet with your suppliers and place advance orders. Talk to them about renegotiating your terms so that you can boost your cash flow during the quiet times.

Get staff organized

Think about the extra resources you’re going to need during busy times. Did you have enough last time, or are you going to need more? Decide on the employment terms – will you be hiring more permanent staff, or are you looking specifically at short-term contracts during the busy time?

A couple of months out, start advertising for the staff you’ll need during the season. You’ll need this time to advertise, interview and train your new employees

Take the time to re-market

Just because your business isn’t busy doesn’t mean you can’t continue to market it. Keep your profile up so that you’re in the front of potential customers’ minds when the season kicks off. Some of the best ways to do this are:

  • Stay active on social media. If your business doesn’t have a Facebook page or Twitter profile, set one up. Focus on engaging your followers rather than just pushing your products or services at them.
  • If your business is service-based, encourage customers to use a pre-booking service. Make sure people know you take bookings in advance by communicating it on your website and social media.
  • Keep up with your marketing strategy and make sure everything is up to date – your website, advertising materials – and keep in touch with your customers with newsletters and email updates.
  • Kick the season off with a bang by having a launch event. It’s a great way to hit the ground running and get the season off on the right foot.

Take time to maintain

That’s really just a fancy way of saying that quiet times are perfect for tackling those tasks that are a bit tedious, the kind that always seem to get shoved to one side in favor of more interesting things.

  • Give the business a facelift. Freshen up the visible parts of the business. Some new signage or a lick of paint inside and out can make a big difference.
  • Staff training, exploring new product ideas and attending trade shows and conferences are all good ways to make the most of quiet times.
  • Review your budgets. It’s really important to have a well-planned budget. Cash flow forecasts are essential here – and we have guides and templates that can help you conduct them, if you’re new to the process. It’s important to invest any short term funds when busy/make sure you're aware of bills to pay later. And have contingencies for extra cash if things get tight.

What to do when you’re busy

To make the most of the festive season, it’s important to be prepared, so consider the following:

  • Make sure you have plenty of stock to carry you through this period. You can’t sell off empty shelves.
  • It can be a stressful time for your staff, so offer them a quick refresher in providing a great customer experience. Additionally, make sure your Christmas roster is prepared well in advance, so that you can maximize your staff resources and cope with the increase in demand.

Make the most of increased sales opportunities

What you’re looking to do is maximize sales while managing demand and supply, and there are some sure-fire ways to do this:

  • Review your product range and think about what you could add to it, or what new services you could offer.
  • Try and be as accessible to your customers as you can. You could expand your opening hours over the Christmas period, offer flexible payment options, and create some Christmas specials.
  • Try and attract new customers by improving the overall look and feel of your business, offering free or cheap shipping for products sold online, and offering after-sales support or service.

Next steps

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