One thing that many retail sales training programs don't cover is the seasonal business. I know because recently I've received several requests for suggestions how to specifically help them via my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The overriding thing to think about seasonal retail businesses - whether that's the kiosk in the mall, the swimsuit shop on the Cape or the ski village retailer - is that they are all gift stores. What I mean by that is your customers are either buying gifts for someone not with them or gifting themselves because they are on vacation.
That's an important distinction because they are more open to higher-priced items than the scores of seasonal businesses who only tout things on "sale" or lower quality goods these shoppers can get anywhere else.
Though seasonal businesses aren't the most traditional type of retail operation, they can be very profitable if they are in a solid location frequented by lots of tourists and vacationers. If you operate a seasonal retail business, or if you're thinking about opening one, there are proven strategies that you should leverage to give yourself the greatest chance of success:
- Market yourself. While you might have been more comfortable advertising through traditional channels (including print, radio and television), you should instead leverage social media to your benefit. Facebook in particular offers a quick and inexpensive way to reach a highly targeted base of customers.
- Advertise in advance of opening. One mistake that many new seasonal business owners make is to wait until they're open to start advertising. Take a page from the PR experts advertising concerts and theatrical productions and launch your marketing efforts a couple of months before you open for the season. This tends to draw a steadier stream of customers more quickly.
- Know your locale. Whenever possible, sell products which have some kind of local connection. Examples include goods that are locally made, merchandise with local themes and products which have a direct connection to the location where you've set up your business. For instance, if you're running a beachfront kiosk, chances are good that sunblock will be a strong seller but one from a local provider would be even better. Your trump card should be in carrying items not easily found online or back home.
- Use sensible hiring practices. You should exercise every bit as much discretion and due diligence when you're hiring seasonal employees as you would if you were hiring a full-time permanent employee. Ask for references, conduct background checks and make sure they're going to be an asset to your business. Hiring friends and your own kids can cripple your ability to be profitable. Just sayin'...
- Clear it out. So many seasonal retailers hold onto old merchandise because they feel "it never gets old." Guess what? It does. Have a big clearance sale while there are still many shoppers in your town, village or resort - don't wait for the off-season. Read how here.
- Pick your products wisely. All the retail sales training in the world won't help you if you pick the wrong products. Stick to proven top-selling items; you don't have time to be patient with slower-moving products, even though they might offer a slightly wider profit margin or you personally fall in love with them. Successful seasonal businesses thrive on volume.
- Give shoppers a reason to buy. It's a well-known fact in the retail world that people are more likely to spend money when they're on vacation. Differentiate yourself from your competitors and you'll see more of that money coming your way. Display a few items thoughtfully rather than racks and racks of the same thing. Highlight new uses for an older product. Come up with great signs that make customers stop and consider your items.
- Be diverse. Always look for ways to diversify your business so that you're not so dependent on the boom-and-bust cycle of the seasonal retail operation. Can you open more businesses that run in different seasons?
- Use the off season to your advantage. The most successful seasonal retail business owners use their down time to recharge and prepare for next year. Clean the entire store - that means the lint in the corners of the rug, the leftover tape from signs, stapes from decorations, the works! Crunch the numbers. Look for ways to improve. Refocus your strategies. Take retail sales training courses - like mine. In short, improve yourself and you'll improve your business.
The main thing to remember too is you have to sell what you have in the store - otherwise you look like some quaint museum with employees stalking customers from behind piles of clothes. My new online retail sales training could help as well, go here to learn more.