Businesses familiar with the feast-or-famine aspect of Gator football season can find company in businesses whose livelihoods depend on special times of year, whether it’s the recent winter holiday gift-giving, this month’s Valentine’s Day or prom in the spring. Local businesses that bank on seasonal bursts of activity for their year-round income have found creative solutions to maintain momentum—even when the cash register isn’t ringing.
Take a lesson from their off-season playbooks.
1. Extend the season.
Barbara Crevasse of Crevasse’s Florist of Gainesville says to extend her busy season, she advertises early. “We put a lot of inserts into our billing to let customers know what’s coming up for the next few months,” she says.
At Allure Boutique, a local purveyor of dresses and formalwear that sees the most business during Gator football season and prom, owner Chelsee Atkins agrees. She has found that advertising earlier for prom means that customers shop earlier, reducing the lull between seasons.
2. Capitalize on heavy customer traffic.
At Thornebrook Chocolates, co-owner Cathleen Blagay says that a considerable amount of planning goes into the Valentine’s Day rush. The entire staff works extra hours the week prior to stock the store with enough supplies.
She says the store has developed some new products to generate even more sales during Valentine’s, when more customers are likely to visit the store. To compliment the sale of their popular chocolate-covered strawberries, Thornebrook Chocolates has started selling wine.
“We started by asking customers, ‘If there was something else you would like to see added to the store, what would it be?’” she says. “A lot was to anticipate Valentine’s Day, where wine and chocolate would be a good pairing.”
The store is even encasing entire bottles of wine in chocolate. “As we had the wine on the shelves, we started thinking, ‘How could we even take that a step further?’”
3. Find an in-demand, non-seasonal niche.
Unique products and services that address niche markets can provide a steady source of income during lulls between seasonal sales. Crevasse’s Florist has carved out a niche for itself in providing flowers for funerals and hospital patients, Crevasse says.
A popular item throughout the year, Thornebrooke Chocolates has singled out a market with sugar-free chocolate.
4. Keep your brand current.
During the off-season, local businesses must resort to additional forms of marketing to both bring in customers and stay relevant when the season returns.
“This past year, we tried a Groupon promotion to get more customers to come into the store,” Crevasse says. “We’ve been trying to go on Facebook more and post pictures of what we’ve done at bridal shows and floral conventions.”
At Allure, Atkins agrees that hosting and participating in off-season events keeps her store at the forefront of customers’ minds. “We’ll do shows and seminars for pageant girls,” she says. “Any type of event that gets people excited and in the doors.”
5. Improve the business behind-the-scenes.
Owners know which months are slow and plan accordingly. Blagay found that her lack of space at Thornebrook Chocolates crippled her ability to plan ahead. So, to prepare for this season’s Valentine’s Day pre-season, she re-vamped the workshop to create more storage space.
Crevasse says she uses the slow summer to polish other parts of the business. Instead of waiting for orders and revenue, Crevasse chases the market by keeping up with advancing technology, planning for Christmas and attending bridal shows.
“We make a lot of money during the winter months, and then we try to get through the summer,” explains Crevasse. “We have to watch our payroll, and we have to watch our expenses.” But, after 12 years in business, Crevasse says, it’s just a normal cycle.