5 TIPS FOR CONQUERING YOUR SLOW SEASON
The first several weeks of the calendar year are often seen as slow time for artisans and makers. In the handmade industry 20%-40% of all sales revenue is generated in the last 6 weeks of the year. In contrast January and February are generally the months with the lowest retail sales.
Dan Breeden from Inc.com points out:
“Cold months that keep local shoppers indoors and a Christmas holiday shopping hangover combine to keep these sales numbers low.”
After the adrenaline rush and frantic pace of the fall and Christmas season, it is easy to become disenchanted with the lower level of buying activity and less revenue. There is a temptation to let things ride. Slow months, slow pace. Taking a break after going all out in high season is good. Recover. Recharge. But don’t ‘forget’ your business. Here are 5 steps for success in the ‘slow’ season.
1. Don’t underestimate the afterglow
Some artisans can experience a very favourable post-season effect in sales. Customers who bought from you in the fall might come back for more, perhaps for themselves or for a special gift giving occasion (Valentine’s Day!). People who received your work as a gift might look for another piece. Those who heard about or saw your work during the many social events in the pre-Christmas season might wish to buy.
2. Don’t stay away too long
One of the biggest traps for makers, and especially less established ones is to shut down for too long. There are two aspects to this.
First, consumers who visit your retail locations and can’t find your display or pop up might assume you are gone. They will look elsewhere. When they find what they are looking elsewhere they will stay elsewhere. Word of mouth works beautifully in promoting your work. It can also work much less beautifully against you by spreading the word of your absence. Customers or potential customers disappointed by the absence of you work will spread the word that your business is gone or closed.
That is a massive opportunity killer. It sabotages sales that you would have had in the slow month(s). It will also zap sales after the slow months because people will have stopped looking for you. Out of sight, out of mind.
Another downside of staying away is that you are leaving the artisan ecosystem which supports you. The Handmade Industry is growing and changing fast. New ideas, new trends or new competition can surface very quickly. It is necessary to stay on top of these, to keep your skills, knowledge and ideas fresh. It is very difficult for a business to evolve in a vacuum.
3. Do continue to promote your business
Keep it top of mind with your customers and potential customers. Promotion activities such as public relations, relationship marketing, networking, advertising, digital marketing or sales promotion remain important. Generally they have a response lag time.
hat means that the effort you put in today does not lead to immediate sales tomorrow. Instead the impact of today’s promotion efforts might show up only in 2 weeks, or 4 weeks or even a few months down the line. But you need to put the seeds in now if you want to reap what you sowed 3 weeks or 3 months later.
4. Have a slow-time product strategy
Consider creating a product-line that is specifically designed for slow-times. This could be items which are designed for a subsection of your target customer. For example, if you are making/selling wood breadboards, think about offering bamboo boards for people who particularly value the sustainability of this material. Or it could be items that have a different price point, but still a healthy profit margin. (Don’t discount your regular product line). Try out new products, or new product designs. Look into creative repackaging older designs or products which are not selling well anymore.
5. Plan ahead
A great first step to plan ahead is to look back. Dive into your records and identify what worked and what didn't. Which promo-strategy looks good in hindsight? Which Facebook ads worked well? Which merchandising tactics generated the best results? Who buys your products? Which products generate the most profit? Which ones are profit duds?
A second step is to take what you learned looking back and apply it looking forward. Write a business plan or a sales and marketing plan. It need not be, in fact it should not be encyclopedic. 3-6 pages will probably be quite sufficient. Writing a plan will take up no more time than doing a week-end craft fair or a two day show. Yet it is likely to generate more profit for you. Invest a little bit of time to outline your goals for the year and the road-map of how to achieve them. Then go on and do it. Win!
The off-season might look off at first glance. But a second look shows that it is an essential period for maker success. It can generate profit and it can be used to lay the foundation for even greater success in the future.