How to Survive the Off-Season

Every business, no matter what segment of business you are in, has an off-season. Some retailers fear the winter and lack of customers, while others welcome the cold and ice that it brings and the anglers who will fish it. Some parts of our country experience less drastic seasonal shifts than others, but still everyone has their off-season.

How businesses prepare and deal with their off-season slumps can many times dictate how successful they will be, and how profitable they are during the peak season. A store that has little to no money or credit left before the season kicks in to buy new merchandise will find it difficult to compete with a store that is well-stocked with the newest fishing tackle.

Budget for the Times
You will have good months, great months and months that you barely break even. Realize this and plan your budget accordingly. Keep your expenses and costs in check when you know little cash will be coming in; see if you can work with your creditors and wholesalers to keep merchandise in stock and what you need even when customers are not buying regularly. Do not discount scaling back your employees’ hours and store hours if needed. The key is to remain visible and viable year-round for your customers.

Decrease Your Off-Season
One of the easiest ways to lessen your off-season is to extend your season. If you live where fall fishing, ice fishing, or where early spring fishing occur, become a part of it. Many times anglers will look to their favorite tackle stores for leadership in the off-season – show them that fishing doesn’t just take place in the summer. Make sure you are stocked up on any specialty equipment they may need for these special seasons and become a market leader for them.

Find A Second Business
If there is a strong complimentary business that you can enter into with little financial stress, do it. Many fishing tackle stores with excess parking offer off-season storage for boats. Look into giving more seminars in the off-season in your store. Look into attending consumer shows if there are some in your area. Find something that you can easily do to create a cash flow with little startup cost and you will find yourself fearing the off-season less each year.

Stay Social
Many businesses feel that once the season is over, the customers forget about them. This may be so, but only because the businesses are not reaching out to them. Keep up your social networking and email blasts. The more you communicate in the off-season with your customer base, the more they will think of you when next year’s season rolls around.

Create A Reason to Shop
If stores can run a Christmas in July sale, why can’t you be innovative and run a summer sale in the winter? Create a reason for customers to come to your store, selling last year’s models for a small profit is better than sitting on unsold inventory. It will create cash flow and customer traffic. Be innovative and you will see your customers respond.

Cater to the Locals
Your tried-and-true local customer base has seen you through the good times and the bad – pay them back. They too have been inundated with the tourists and because of their good cheer the tourists keep coming back and shop local businesses. Work with fellow local merchants to say thank you by running a special sale for the locals. Since far fewer tourists are in town in the off-season, you don’t have to worry about being overrun with many new customers. If enough of your fellow merchants get together it can become an annual event and one everyone will look forward to.

Enjoy the Slow Days
Business in the off-season can be incredibly slow for many small business owners. Accept this fact and embrace it. If you need some time away from the store, now is the time to take it. While cash flow may be limited, if you have budgeted correctly and planned for these slow days it may also be a great time for a remodeling project or face-lift to your store. Many other local businesses may be experiencing similar slow times and offer discounts for their work. See what deals you can make with your fellow merchants to get much-needed enhancements made to your store now before the crowds return.

If you have been toying with the idea of adding a new aspect to your store, this is a great time to research and learn as much as you can about it. Use your time wisely and remember, even though customers are not coming through the doors you are still working. Now more than ever is the time to create lists of either personal or store improvements that need to be done before the season kicks in again.

Every business, no matter who their customer base is, will experience an off-season; fortunately fish are always in the water and are willing to be caught, just like customers are willing to be sold to if presented with the right lure. Plan for the off-season slump and your business will enjoy a better season next year.

What do you do to plan for the off-season? How have you learned over the years to lessen the effects of it? What is one thing you can share with your fellow fishing tackle retailers that gets you through the dark days? Share your tips with us all on our Facebook page and in our LinkedIn group. You may learn something new from another retailer as well.