Nearly any store we visit during December (and often earlier than that) features some form of holiday signage and special sales as they try to capitalize on the increased spending during the holiday season. People rush to the stores buy decorations for homes, food for a party with friends and family or the perfect gift to put under the Christmas tree. Whether it is the big box outlet in a major mall or a mom and pop corner store, the holidays are a big boost in customer sales and traffic for most retail businesses.
By the time you are reading this article, all the preparations businesses make for the holiday season have long been in place. Many of the decisions about advertising, marketing and promotions were made during the summer or early fall. The same goes for scheduling deliveries and making sure there are enough products available in the stores.
This busy holiday season is an ideal time for many businesses wanting to bring additional customers into their stores and increase their profits at the end of the year. The holidays give businesses a great opportunity to not only attract customers but also make sure they come back throughout the year.
What are some things retail stores are doing now that can help business in the future? One way to start is by focusing on employee engagement. Make sure employees are taking care of the customers and being polite and courteous. It is important that the employees are available to answer the customers’ questions and to make them feel wanted. During this time, the goal is not to just sell them something over the holiday. The goal is to create a customer. If a store can use the holiday to create a customer, hopefully that will lead to repeat business in the future.
Take for example, if somebody goes to a pet store to buy a gift for a friend that owns a dog. A sale that day is great, but more importantly, you want to give them a reason to come back. The customer has now come into the store and has interacted with the employees or management. They have seen firsthand that the store has good customer service and a nice selection of products. That positive experience can plant the seed for them to come back again and buy more things for the same friend’s dog or refer others there. That goes back to the idea to create a customer, not just make an individual sale.
We understandably focus on the holiday season as a time when retail stores see their highest increase in business. It is the most visible for customers and profitable for stores. The forecast for this year is particularly strong, as the National Retail Federation expects 2018 retail sales to increase at a minimum of 4.5 percent over 2017. However, there are many businesses, including franchises, that are seasonal by nature. They are just not always holiday seasonal.
An ice cream or frozen ice concept has its busy season over the spring and summer months but loses customers or may even close for a few months over the winter. Tax preparation franchises are extremely busy from January through April. However, their hours and workload for the remainder of the year pale in comparison to the first quarter.
When it comes to franchises and the holiday season, depending on the line of work, some tend to see their slowest times at the end of the year. One example would be a painting franchise. Customers do not want a crew setting up in their house and painting over the holidays. People will likely also hold off on projects such as household remodeling, handyman services or blind installation until the year. For franchise owners in these fields, business can be very slow during the holiday season.
Although there are fewer examples, some franchises do see an increase in business during the holidays. Those who specialize in gifts, seasonal baskets and arrangements, candies and chocolates see their revenues peak over the final few months of the year. Honey Baked Ham is an example of a franchise that offers a popular product during the times of high demand around Thanksgiving and Christmas but sees sales decrease most other times of the year.
In my role as a franchise coach, I speak to many people who are weighing different options of franchise ownership. This includes those who are exploring various types of franchises that are seasonal by nature. People who don’t mind working during the holidays but would prefer slower schedules in the spring and summer to take advantage of warmer weather and plan outdoor activities could look into options like Honey Baked Ham. Those who like to enjoy some downtime over the holidays to spend time with their family should consider franchises with busier times coming in the summer months.
Seasonal businesses can be successful businesses. Owners must know how to balance their busy and slow seasons so their operation can be sustainable throughout the year. They must also be prepared to handle the unique challenges of the job, such as working long hours during the peak season and strategically planning ahead for busier times while business is slow. If a franchise owner is able to do these things effectively, they can create a profitable and comfortable life year-round.
Rick Bisio is a leading franchise coach with FranChoice, the creator of the FDD Exchange and the Franchise Glossary and the co-host of Rick Bisio’s Franchise Focus. Since becoming a franchise coach in 2002, Bisio has assisted thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs nationwide explore the dream of business ownership.