Whether you run a gift shop in an aquarium or a ski shop in the mountains, you’ve experienced the challenges of the off-season when tourists aren’t flooding your store with their money. After the peak selling season, your store is now quiet and you’re scrambling to secure any sales that you can gather… whether you want to admit to this reality or not.
While this seasonal slump might seem inevitable — and in some ways it is — it can also be an opportunity to reassess your operations and increase your marketing efforts in a way that you might not have time for during peak months. More good news? What you do during this time can have a positive impact on your business for weeks, months or possibly even years to come.
Below, gain ten ideas on how to help your store thriving — and not just surviving — year round.
#1. Clean and Organize the Store
You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a store by how maintained the storefront is. Pretend you’re a customer and take a look at your store from the outside. Does anything need sprucing up? While cleaning should be done daily, now is a good time to do the bigger projects like painting the walls or replacing windows. Also make sure your back room is organized in such a way that inventory is properly categorized and easily accessible so when the seasonal rush hits, you’re prepared for profits.
#2. Refresh Merchandising and Display Features
The displays that worked in October won’t work in March, so now is the time to update displays and store layouts so regular shoppers can get excited about — and anticipate — discovering something new.
Take advantage of impulse sale opportunities and cross-merchandising possibilities. Get creative with different lighting techniques, signage, and window displays that will draw people in from the road. Do you have an especially creative display? Post it on Instagram, which is the easiest way for stores to get their brand message spread all over the world.
#3. Focus On Customer Relationship Management
According to Invespcro, existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more, when compared to new customers. On top of that, you have a 60-70% probability of selling to an existing customer, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. That’s to say, you should engage with the customers you already have.
Are you happy with your customer relationship management strategy? Are you collecting data on your customers that helps you personalize their shopping experience, and in turn, increases loyalty, efficiency, and profits? Keeping track of prospects and customers is crucial for customer acquisition and retention, so go over your strategy and make adjustments as needed.
#4. Gather Customer Reviews
As your busy season starts to wind down, you should be asking customers to review your services while their experience is still fresh in their minds. According to BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews are much as personal recommendations, and of the customers who were asked to provide feedback, 68% were willing to do it. Whether it’s Yelp, Facebook, or Google, get those customers to sing your praises, as it’s free advertising for you throughout the year.
#5. Offer Discounts To Locals
Just because you don’t have thousands of tourists in your town year round doesn’t mean you don’t have thousands of potential customers — don’t forget about the locals. Offer discounts to people in the area to help bring in some business after the crowds leave town. Not only will this help during the slow times, but you’re building a relationship with people who can support you throughout the year.
#6. Boost Your Online Presence
If you don’t have an ecommerce presence, it’s time to consider that option. An online store allows you to sell to people all over the world, so even if they’re not setting foot in your store, they can still send you their business. If you don’t have an online store, make sure you stay active on social media, updating your followers about new items on your shelves and upcoming events they might be interested in.
#7. Invest in Employee Training
A clean, well-merchandised store and optimized website won’t do you any good if you don’t have well-trained, knowledgeable staff out on the floor. Now is a good time to review customer service procedures with your employees, even just reminding them that saying, “We appreciate your business” can go a long way. As customer service expert Nancy Friedman says,”More business is lost due to poor service and poor treatment than poor product.”
#8. Co-Host an Event
Events are a great way to bring new people into your store because it provides an experience shoppers can’t get online, and it’s even better when you can partner up with another business that might not be as dependent on tourists year round.
Maybe there’s a charity related to your niche and together you hold a fundraiser that’s both fun and functional. This gives you the opportunity to draw in more traffic by offering your customers something unique, increase sales, build credibility with your local community, and do something good in the process.
#9. Create Your Own Buzz
The local media are always looking for “feel-good” hometown stories, so give them something to write about. If your business is helping a local animal shelter, hosting an educational seminar, or reaching a milestone, send out a press release. It’s free advertising, so go ahead and toot your own horn.
#10. Enhance Your Email Communication
Do you have any in-store promotions going on? Is there an event that you’re putting together in the coming weeks? Use your email list to keep customers in the know about everything going on with your business. While it’s true they might not be able to engage with you as a customer, delivering high-value content to their inboxes will keep you top-of-mind for them when the busy season rolls around.
Finally, remember that while slow periods are natural for most stores in tourist based area, it’s up to you to define how you’ll manage this time to your advantage. Using the ideas above, optimize your slower days to increase success on the days you know you’ll welcome more customers.
By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle