As temperatures begin to heat up, so do seasonal businesses. For Annabelle, a women’s clothing boutique, located in the beach resort of Avalon, NJ, we begin to see store-goers around May, coinciding with the summer vacation season. Come fall, as temperatures begin to cool down, so does our foot traffic, and the store completely shuts down in October.
Yet after four successful seasons, Annabelle has learned that while our store-front may be shut down in October, the business of running a seasonal store is never in off-season. As store owner of Annabelle, I’ve learned three important lessons for managing a successful seasonal business.
1. Off-Season Marketing: It’s All About the Build-Up
Though shore-goers and Avalon visitors may not physically be in our store come fall, there are still ways Annabelle can interact with them year-round thanks to social media. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great ways to provide a constant and gentle reminder of your presence without seeming overly aggressive.
You can also use the off-season to refine your brand. In the winter, I take time to cultivate Annabelle’s voice, making sure it fits our summer chic and classic sophistication clothing style. As spring rolls around, you can slowly ramp up content to build anticipation. Starting in April, we provide sneak-peeks of our clothing offerings to get customers excited for the summer and our store opening. Thanks to the Internet, there are so many ways to interact with customers even though they may not be near our store.
2. Working with Vendors: The Importance of Planning Ahead
Every year, seasonal businesses have the opportunity to reinvent their store, choosing new offerings for the next season. However, ordering from vendors can be tricky as they don’t receive revenue until they ship items, yet you may not need items until next season.
I’ve learned that ordering from these vendors is a balancing act. Explaining your situation to vendors as a seasonal small business can make vendors more willing to work with your schedule. Still, if it’s an item I really want, I have vendors deliver it to my Philadelphia home. All this requires careful planning and prioritization to create an inventory of items perfect for next season.
3. Flexibility for factors beyond your control
Because of the short opening time, seasonal businesses are affected by things like weather and the economy more acutely than year-round businesses. Recognizing the specific factors beyond your businesses’ control is key in working around these factors.
For Annabelle, we are especially affected by weather in our beach town. Taking weather into account, I can loosely predict the inevitable ebb and flow for business, giving me some predictability over an uncontrollable aspect.