The dog days of summer can sometimes be hard on small businesses. Many consumers take time off during the summer months, leaving town to go on a holiday or visit friends and family. This can cause a huge drop in sales and cash flow for many businesses, depending on the industry. (The ones in the travel trade may see an upswing).
Business owners must get creative during the summer months. Consider taking your business outdoors, where people generally spend more time during summer months. For example, if you own a restaurant, investing in a lively outdoor setting such as a patio with music and a special summer menu would be enticing for customers. You might also do some research into local events, fairs and exhibitions you can take part in over the summer, to gain some added exposure by connecting with customers where they’re spending time.
If your business happens to be a seasonal business, then subleasing office/retail/warehouse space might help recoup the loss in revenue experienced over the summer season. If you are operating out of a professional-looking office, for example, placing an ad to sublease some of the office space for short-term might attract freelance professionals, and touring consultants who require a professional setting to hold meetings with their clients. The same can be said about retail and warehouse space. There are companies out there looking for space to conduct a sale for a month or two, so consider how unused areas can be subleased out. Just make sure it won’t interfere with your business’ day-to-day operations.
The slower period also provides an opportunity to call your regular customers, thank them for their continued support, and offer them a special discount on their purchases during the summer. Even though you might not obtain a lot of business from them during the summertime it is very important to reach out to them, in order to build loyalty and ensure that they support you in the following months. You could even consider sending them samples of some of your fall products, offer a preview of the fall catalog, and invite them to a summer event such as a client appreciation barbecue. Most of all, make sure you send them the message that their business is appreciated! Building these long-term relationships will help with future sales, and in turn help your business survive the summer heat.
Extra time during the summer can also be put to good use by doing a little house cleaning. Re-organize your retail/warehouse area, reduce the clutter and give the place a new look. Plan for the rest of the year and update your marketing materials.
And of course, now is also the opportunity to take some time off and re-invigorate yourself. The revived and refreshed energy will pump you up for the busy season to come.
Tony Manoharan is a Toronto-based Investment Officer at BMO.