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Are the Holidays Your Off-Season? Stay on Top of Business Seasonality With These 7 Tips

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Are the Holidays Your Off-Season? Stay on Top of Business Seasonality With These 7 Tips

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: October 22, 2012 Updated: October 22, 2012

All indicators point to a solid 2012 holiday season for retailers. The National Retail Federation points to one key indicator, its Global Port Tracker report, which showed a strong increase in imports for August, September and October – the three key months of the year when retailers buy the bulk of the merchandise they will sell during the holiday season.

Good news! But what if the holiday season is not your big selling season? For many businesses, particularly summer-seasonal businesses, the winter holiday season can bring a dive in sales and cash flow issues.

Here are seven tips for making the most out of the holiday season by effectively planning and managing cash flow – while ensuring your business stays top-of-mind as well.

Have a View of Cash Flow

If you operate a seasonal business, it’s important to include a cash flow projection template as part of your financial planning process. If you can, plan your cash flow over a year.  Use historical reports from previous years to forecast your revenue, your busiest months and your estimated sales for each month. You’ll also need to consider your fixed expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) and your variable expenses (salaries, inventory, taxes, etc.) as well as when these variable expenses will be expended.

This blog offers some quick tips for simplifying the process: Projecting your Business Cash Flow, Made Simple.

Once you have a view of your revenues and outgoings, you can develop strategies to manage cash flow throughout the year.

Optimize Your Invoicing Process

Unfortunately for small business owners, the wait to get paid is only getting longer. According to a 2012 Wall Street Journal survey, 64 percent of small businesses had unpaid invoices over 60 days old while 20 percent say the problem is worsening.

Modifying your invoicing policies will help ensure off-season cash flow. This blog offers tips on how to do this: How to Get Paid Faster with a Better Invoicing Process.

Get Help Financing Your Seasonal Working Capital Needs

If you need help meeting your short-term and cyclical working capital needs, you might want to consider a short-term loan or line of credit such as SBA’s CAPLines Program, which provides advances against anticipated inventory and accounts receivable to help businesses with seasonal sales fluctuations. The program was streamlined this year to make it easier for small business owners to get financing even if collateral is tight. Read more about the program or talk to your local SBA Office to learn more.

Negotiate Flexible Payment Terms from Your Suppliers

Just as you want to expedite the flow of cash in, you should also consider negotiating extended payment terms from your suppliers. This is especially useful if your busy season ramps up again after the holidays because you are likely to be incurring most of your variable expenses (inventory, marketing, etc.) now. The trouble is, you won’t see any immediate returns on those investments until your revenues kick in, so an extended payment plan can help ease the pain of these pre-season costs.

Continue to Market Your Business

If you run a seasonal business, your off-season should be one of your busiest marketing seasons. Capture customer emails (use drawings, surveys, and other sign-up incentives), send updates year-round (entice them to come back next year) and use social media (check out this “Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Small Business”) to put out teasing content and updates all year long!

Offer time-limited promotions or incentives that drive customers to sign-up for your services now, and secure a percentage down-payment in advance.

Find Alternative Sources of Income

Earning income from alternative sources or diversifying your products or services to include ones that will be popular during your off-season is a great way of keeping cash flowing and your business on customers’ minds. Don’t forget to check whether you need any additional business licenses or permits. SBA.gov's  Business Licenses and Permits Tool can help you find the paperwork you might need.

Use Your Downtime for Planning

Use your off-season wisely. Regroup, review and plan ahead to ensure a profitable busy season. How did your business perform against its plans? Did your marketing campaigns pan out as well as you’d hoped? What new products and services can you introduce in the new season? What’s the competition up to? How can you position yourself against them? 

 

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

Certainly businesses can take this time as well to study their competitors current Marketing efforts. For instance online their are many tools that allow you to see what your competitors are focusing on (both in search trends as well as social media trends) This will give you a good indicator of what they see as the next area of growth. You can also use Google Trends to try to spot upcoming trends in your industry and begin building pages on your web site for those new services. It is also a good time to have your site re-designed or plan a re-design. I advise my clients that the off-season is the best time for re-working your online marketing plans.
We just started out and it's really hard to keep track of everything. However, being in the internet marketing industry we do actually have business year round. I especially work all day since I pretty much take my business home. My downtime is for not taking for what happens tomorrow.
Thanks Caron, A lot of small business owners (myself included) don't always use down time productively. I've found great reward in spending this time working on future planning and ways to increase my customer base and revenue!
It is very important to continue to market your business even in your off season. I am sure most business might not have the funds to promote, but there are so many free promotions available. So money shouldn't be a factor.
The best way to abound your business is to capitalize on the peaks in action and chump interest, and for abounding small businesses theres no bigger aiguille than the holidays
oh, this artical very interesting
"Your off-season should be one of your busiest marketing seasons." We make this recommendation all the time. When dealing with Search Engine Optimization and internet marketing, the more time a site has to age, the better it will rank. Companies who rely on the holiday season for a boost in business need to start their efforts in the early Spring the year before. That way when November and December roll around, the work put in 7 months in advance will pay off.

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