Many retailers experience a sales slump during after the holiday season. How do you respond?
The slump comes as no surprise and most small-business owners know they just need to plan for it and ride it out. They think of it as time to work in the business and perhaps to grab a short vacation. Those are good ways to spend your time. Everyone needs a break and spending time restocking, cleaning and reorganizing can add freshness to your visual merchandising.
There are other approaches you can take, however. These range from bringing more people into the store during this slow period to working on business growth in the future.
Bringing more people can be done through directed mailings/emails. It can be a time when you aim for a new audience. Maybe you do a charity event or drive. This may be a time for you to start your own holiday (See our post, “Start Your Own Holiday”) or grab on to an existing one such as Groundhog’s Day or “Winnie the Pooh” day (Jan. 18th). or “International Fun at Work Day” (Jan. 26th).
But for long term growth and success, this may be the time to look forward. To make the most of your time, here are three possible efforts you could pick from:
- Internal efficiency and staff development – Do a deep dive into your data. Examine new technology and trends. Break out the list of consumer complaints looking for common areas of frustration. Include staff in these discussions. Also, plan some staff training and some fun.
- Develop your supply side – Maybe its time to have coffee with your sources of goods and materials. Are there opportunities for you to access additional items at cheaper prices or better terms? Do they have any special programs that you are not taking advantage of? Are you using technology effectively in your ordering and inventory control? Finally, what do they see as upcoming trends in the marketplace? It’s also a time for you to interview new potential suppliers. These may be your primary suppliers or backup suppliers or suppliers of specialty items that may complement what you are already offering.
- Better understand your customer base – Make an appointment with your top 10 customers. How can you get a greater share of their business? What issues have they had with your company? What trends do they see in the future and how will your business need to change to respond? How do they know who might be a new customer (and will they help you approach them)? What type of marketing is most effective in their view? You may also do surveys of your entire customer base or a short survey of customers as they come into the store. Also, some general market surveys to look at name and brand awareness might provide information. Finally, dig into the data. How is the make-up of your community and market changing? Perhaps you want to talk with some elected officials and other community leaders for their thoughts on your business, your market, the community and the future.
Getting this information is a great first step. However, you also need to use it and to do it now. Do some “what if” scenarios, some brainstorming, a SWOT analysis, scenario planning, etc. Include not only management but employees and your mentors/advisers. Even family members may be someone you want to have at the table.
So don’t look at this as your slow time. Make this your GROWTH time!!
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.