For many small business owners in the Maritimes, the peak boom in revenue comes and goes with the tourist season. From about mid-May to the end of September, Maritime businesses are blessed with plenty of customers. There’s fresh foot traffic from nearby festivals, friendly visits from families on vacation, and welcomed swarms of sightseers from tour buses or cruise ships. But when the leaves start falling and the wind gets sharp and cold, many businesses also find the trail of customers start to run cold. During the offseason, plenty of businesses tend to close up shop until the snow melts and spring comes again. However, some seasonal businesses can’t afford to close for the winter. These businesses often struggle to keep up a steady revenue and meet an uphill battle to make profits outside of tourist season. But even when the chips are down and it seems impossible to bring in much-needed clientele, there are plenty of ways for a business can rope in new customers. Here on our blog, we’ve talked before about how businesses can succeed in Atlantic Canada. Now, we offer hope for any struggling summertime entrepreneurs out there. Here we’ve put together a list of five tips for your business to thrive in the offseason
1. Take Advantage of Any Holidays
Summer might be over, but there are still plenty of events to look forward too during the cold months. Your business can do promotional events for holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and more. And that’s not to mention the sacred days for retail profits, Black Friday and Boxing day!
If you own a retail store, be sure to order in a new stock of products that matches the seasonal vibe. Find some spooky new Halloween products, or decorate with pink hearts and teddy bears on Valentine’s day. For restaurants and cafes, try making a fun promotional food or drink that will get people in the seasonal spirit. Use seasonal flavours and scents like pumpkin spice in the fall or peppermint in the winter. And certainly you can take advantage of business from holiday visitors just like in the summer! Keep your holiday events in the public eye and you’re sure to get spirited new customers following your events year-round.
2. Be Social! Use Your Social Media
We all know how important it is to keep your customers in the loop. Be sure to have a website, online newsletter, and social media where you can reach as wide an audience as possible. Most importantly, keep updating these platforms frequently. Post about everything, from new products, new events, and new partnerships. Even if there isn’t much to update on, it’s great to post entertaining things that happen at your business location. People love to hear about someone bringing their dog to the office! It’s also smart to stay relevant by engaging with other social media pages or to comment on current events.
It’s also a great idea to set up a blog for your business. There, you can write posts about things that are relevant to your business. Blogs can be used to give updates on events and products, but they can also be used for writing relevant articles. For example, a furniture store can create a blog about the best design ideas for living rooms, and when people search for that topic the blog post will be in the search results. These types of articles can boost traffic to your website and have people engage more with your business.
3. Set Up an Online Store
It may be the case that you simply can’t get as much foot traffic to your business in the off-season. It may be because your town has a small population or because of the region’s turbulent winter weather. But a lack of in-store visitors doesn’t have to mean a lack of shoppers. If you set up an online store for your business, you can go to the customers instead of them coming to you. You can even reach new audiences who would have never found your business otherwise.
This is also a great way of keeping the business of customers from the tourist season who might have otherwise only purchased from you once. Say you own a hand-crafted jewellery store. Over the summer, a customer fell in love with a necklace she bought from you while on vacation. She returns to her hometown and wants to buy a bracelet from you as a Christmas presents for her sister, but your store is too far away for her to make the trip back. If your business has online shopping features, then she’ll be able to use it to find that perfect present for all her family and friends. The people she knows will also find out about your store through her and the trend will only continue.
4. Create Excitement with Promotional Events
Another great way that your business can generate more sales in the offseason is by holding promotional events year-round. You can aim to please certain demographics by having limited time or monthly discounts for people like students and seniors. Or you can reward returning customers by having exclusive deals for frequent buyers. Offering special rewards or discounts will keep customers who are already interested in your business returning throughout the year. Coffee shops will often have promotions where if a customer buys a certain number of drinks they get one free. Or retail stores sometimes provide special discounts for people who sign up for rewards programs. But don’t be intimidated by comparing yourself to the complicated rewards programs big companies use. Your business can use something as simple as a printed card with your business logo and the customer’s name.
It’s also a good idea to hold semi-annual events and sales. Many businesses, big and small, send out monthly fliers with products they have on sale. You could print and mail out simple fliers, and you should definitely use social media pages and email newsletters. If having a flier’s worth of deals isn’t in the cards, it might be easier to have one new or popular product on sale as a promotion. For example, imagine you run a natural soap business and once a month you create a promotional sale for one of your products.
You could also hold semi-annual clearance sales that line up with the seasons, like an end of summer sale or a “spring cleaning” sales. And don’t forget to take advantage of renowned retail sale days like Black Friday or Boxing Day. Take advantage of any limited-time sales, because they encourage consumers to buy sooner rather than later.
5. Collaborate with Local Partners
In Atlantic Canadian, community and collaboration are very important to people. For business owners, that means taking part in the community and getting involved with other local businesses and entrepreneurs. While some businesses are the competition, others are potential collaborators that can help you gain success within the community. There plenty of great opportunities to partner with other businesses or even non-profits in the area. For example, if popular band or theatre group needs a small space to perform, a restaurant or cafe owner can allow them to perform there, drawing in the revenue from the audience that will come watch them perform. In the same scenario, a local clothing store can loan or donate their custom designs to performers and gain promotion.
Complimentary business can also partner up to sell each other’s products, like a popular boutique promoting local jeweller, or a coffee shop selling locally made teas. Communities are all about building each other up, and collaborations are a great way for both entrepreneurs to gain traction in a local economy.
Make the Most of the Offseason
Atlantic Canada is a beautiful region year-round. Even though there’s definitely a huge economic boost in the tourist season, that doesn’t mean a business can’t make great profits the rest of the year. Following these five tips for your business to thrive in the offseason can truly help make a difference in profits. What’s most important is keeping the local charm of your business alive as it strives to be a first-rate contender on the floor of business competition.