Running a Seasonal Business: What Are Your Off-Season Options?
Seasonal businesses are unique in the fact that they are both easier and harder to run, depending on what angle you are looking at it. They are most common in areas that rely heavily on tourism – areas that have peak periods during the year during which more people visit and spend money.
If you have a seasonal business, then you probably already spend a good portion of the year contemplating what your best options are during the off-season. Are there ways to make some money on the side with your business even when it’s not peak season? Should you maybe focus on another job entirely during the off-season or focus on preparations for the coming peak periods?
If you still haven’t figured out what the best route is to take during the seasonal downtime, here are some options to consider.
Prepare for High Season
What you do during the offseason depends a lot on how well your business performs in season. Do you make enough money during your peak season that you don’t have to worry about additional sources of income during the rest of the year? Can your seasonal business sustain you for a full calendar year financially?
If so, then you have the luxury of being able to focus yourself full-time on your part-time gig, which is a pretty awesome spot to be in. If that’s the case, you should be performing research during the offseason and carrying out maintenance that is going to enable your seasonal business to continue to thrive and grow once peak periods hit again.
Your goal should be to use this quiet period to make sure that your business is going to be running on all cylinders during the peak period. Use the time to spruce up your establishment. Get a fresh coat of paint on the walls, make some adjustments to the interior design, brainstorm ideas for possible innovations that you can potentially add to your offer in the coming high season.
You can also take the time to analyze what your competitors are doing and how your market is changing. Keeping in contact with your seasonal staff is also a good idea; that is, if you have the luxury of having seasonal employees that return to you every year. If that is the case and you have some room in your budget for it, offer training sessions and even organize team building activities to keep the team positive and ready to perform at a high level in the coming peak season.
Whatever you do, the goal is to make sure that your seasonal business is going to be better in every way this year than it was at the end of your last peak period.
Adapt Your Offer
If you want to find a way to keep your business open even during the slow season, start thinking about a way to adapt your business. Be careful though. It’s important to maintain your original identity so that you aren’t confusing people. If you’re a restaurant during the summer and a retail store in the winter, that’s probably not going to work.
But if you’re selling ice cream during the summer, try selling something similar during the winter without leaving your niche. For example, you can sell some different types of sweets during the winter. People will then identify your business as a place where they can satisfy their sweet tooth at any time of the year.
Certainly, there isn’t one solution that you can implement on every type of business. You’re going to have to do some research and some trial and error is definitely going to be involved. What is important, however, is that you try to stay within your original niche as much as possible. The worst thing you can do is confuse your customers.
And if your new offer works well during the offseason, you can then try to find a way to expand your peak season offer in a way that is going to be able to incorporate and merge both offers seamlessly. It’s hard work, no doubt, but definitely worth it if successfully implemented.
Work Reduced Hours
As mentioned previously, many businesses do not have the option to close down completely during the offseason. Working reduced hours is a good compromise. And if you are able to combine this with the above mentioned strategy of adapting your offer, that’s even better.
To use the same example as above, you can add other sweets to the offer of your ice cream parlor during the winter. But if your location is a tourist hotspot that is only busy during the summer, the fact of the matter is that there is not going to be an equal amount of customers entering your establishment no matter what you’re selling. A good compromise in this case would be to both diversify your offer and work reduced hours.
That way, you are still seeing some revenue and you are decreasing the costs of running your operation to coincide with the reduced number of customers available to you during the offseason.
The best way to decide on your reduced work hours is to take a look at other local businesses and see when their peak hours are during the offseason. You’re better doing that than experimenting all season long in an effort to find an optimal set of work hours. Once again, it’s important to avoid confusing people. Pick optimal reduced work hours based on your initial observations and stick to them. It’s all about being reliable.
Focus on Marketing Strategies
This option ties in with the first one about preparing for the coming high season. But really, you can focus on marketing strategies even if you haven’t closed down for the offseason. Even if you’re working during the offseason, you still have more time to focus on developing your business plan and improving your offer and the way you do business.
Brainstorm new strategies and start working on ways to get more people into your door once the peak season arrives. Start getting the word out about your business before the peak season. Try to get a step ahead of your competition while you have the time to think about these types of things.
As anyone with a seasonal business knows, the peak season is always hectic and doesn’t give you enough time to plot new promotions and ways to advance your business. Take this valuable offseason free time to take care of these marketing strategies while you can.
The great thing about all of these suggestions is that they can be mixed and matched according to the profile of your business and what best suits your needs. There are many different factors that go into achieving success for a seasonal business and all of them depend on your niche.
If there’s one thing you should learn from this article is that your offseason should not be wasted. Sure, everyone needs time to relax and take a break from their business. This is especially true for seasonal businesses. They are like running sprints – the race is not as long, but it’s much more intense than running a long, slower race.
Take some time off to reflect on a successful season, but remember to work on improving your business in the offseason so that this success can continue.