Managing seasonal selling

Some businesses have products that only sell well at specific times of the year - for example, if you manufacture sunscreen, you'll find that sales peak in summertime, and if you're in the business of snow gear or run a ski resort, the logical trend would be a jump in sales when the weather cools. Similarly, the busiest time for accountants is tax season, and for florists, it's Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.

While it's great to get the extra boost at certain times of the year, but for many businesses, they want to experience regular sales all year round. Here are five tips to boost sales and cut costs for seasonal businesses.

Plan for the highs and lows

The first thing to do is to build a sales plan, broken down into months or even weeks, and by category, to get a good grip on exactly how much you sell, what you sell and when you sell it. This will allow you to identify the months of peak sales and those with the lowest sales, and to adjust stock accordingly to avoid overbuying. It's a good idea to develop a sales and cash flow forecast  as well.

Pay attention to market and consumer trends

Keeping an eye on market and consumer trends  is important for a seasonal business as it allows you to market smarter according to consumer needs and wants in both low and high seasons. For instance, you're a sunscreen retailer that typically sees a sales boom in summer, but you read that consumers are increasingly becoming more conscious of skin cancer risks, even in winter. A good marketing approach would be to capitalise on this trend - perhaps by sending out a customer email during low season reminding them of the benefits of SPF.

Trends can also be found within your own database - for instance, noticing that a specific product is especially popular with certain demographics such as young people or women can help you better target these groups.

Keep your brand at the forefront of customers' minds

In addition to planning and paying attention to trends, a good marketing strategy also includes maintaining brand awareness at all times. This ensures that customers don't 'forget' about your business once the season changes. Some quick ways you can do so are:

Introduce a new product to fill the gap

Developing a new product to be sold during the low sales season also isn't a bad idea, as long as there's a need for such a product and your business has the capacity to fund and execute the product's development. Depending on your industry, you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time - making slight tweaks to a product may be all you need to plug the gap.

Maintain skeleton operations off-season

A good cost-cutting measure is to ensure that you have the right amount of staff employed at the right time. It may not be wise to maintain a full suite of staff during low-peak seasons as consumer demand will be low. You may want to employ casuals for the extra admin and paperwork you have to complete in high demand seasons, but scale back to skeleton or core operational staff for periods of low sales.

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