One thing that many retail sales training programs don't cover is the retail seasonal business and retailers search in vain for guidance every year as the holidays approach.
I know because I often receive requests for suggestions on how to specifically help them via my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
What is seasonal retail?
Not sure if your business is considered “seasonal”? While most retail businesses experience predictable fluctuations throughout the year, a seasonal business revolves around events or holidays and is typically only open for business for part of the year.
The overriding thing to think about seasonal 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 for the business owner because it means potential customers are more open to higher-priced items than at 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 shop, or if you're thinking about opening one:
Strategies to grow your seasonal retail business
When your retail store is open for just part of the year, you have no time to waste on trial and error. These expert tips will help you make the most of your store’s busy season by taking advantage of the unique strengths of a seasonal retail business.
1. 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.
2. Advertise in advance of opening
One mistake many new seasonal business owners make is waiting 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 few months before you open for the season. This tends to draw a steadier stream of customers to your retail store more quickly.
3. Know your locale
Whenever possible, sell products that have some kind of local connection. Examples include goods that are locally made, merchandise with local themes, and products that have a direct connection to the location where you've set up your seasonal retail 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.
4. Use sensible hiring practices
You should exercise as much discretion and due diligence when 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 kids can cripple your ability to be profitable. Just sayin' ...
5. Clear out old seasonal merchandise
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.
6. Pick your products wisely
All the 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 fall in love with them. Successful seasonal businesses thrive on volume.
7. Give shoppers a reason to buy
It's a well-known fact that people are more likely to spend money on vacation. Differentiate yourself from your competitors and you'll see more 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.
8. Diversify your business
Always look for ways to diversify your business so that you're not so dependent on the boom-and-bust cycle of the seasonal operation. Can you open more businesses that run in different seasons?
9. Use the off-season to your advantage
The most successful seasonal business owners use their downtime 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, staples from decorations, the works!
Crunch the numbers. Look for new ways to improve and market your brand. Refocus your growth strategy.
Take sales training courses -- like SalesRX.com. In short, improve yourself, and you'll improve your business.