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How to Get Your Retail Store through Your Slow Season

Does your retail business have a "slow" season? A party supply store probably spikes in sales around major holidays, but it'll have months when business is scarce. Even if you don't run a seasonal business, sales may ebb and flow.

Because a slowdown means a shortage of cash, retailers need to make sure they're ready for any bumps in the road. Let's look at some strategies that can help you be ready for slow seasons.

8 Things Retailers Can Do to Avoid Slow Seasons

Every retailer has different slow seasons, depending a lot upon industry and product variety. The suggestions below might not work for every store, but by adopting some of these practices you might be able to avoid some of the financial impact of slow seasons. Here are eight tips to help:


Have a flexible staff.

If you hire temps for busier seasons, you won't have to worry about keeping extra people on the payroll during less busy times. This strategy can prevent you from accidentally spending too much on staff during a slowdown. (See 8 Key Strategies for Hiring Retail Temps).


Think outside the box.

Organize sidewalk events and other events to get foot traffic. If you're a retailer in a neighborhood with a bunch of other stores, coordinate with other retailers to organize neighborhood-wide events.


Find new items to sell in the slow season.

A pool supply store is likely to see more sales during warm, summer months. But it would be smart to have a plan to sell complementary items for colder months, like sleds or other items for winter sports. Or you may simply advertise your indoor saunas more heavily in the winter. Think about expanding your offerings to fit in new items that sell better during your offseason.


Take advantage of slow times to catch up on work.

Use slowdowns to do bookkeeping, organizing, and other "maintenance" work. If you're going to renovate your store, do it then. If you're planning to launch a new advertising campaign, do the groundwork in your offseason so you'll be ready when the time comes.


Run a sale.

Who doesn't love a good sale? It can bring in extra revenue during months when you might be short. (For tips on running a sale, see "A New Retailer's Guide to Markdowns, Sales, and Discounts.")


Learn something new.

Let's say you've been in the retail business for a decade. You know everything there is to know about running a store, but you're totally baffled by social media. Take advantage of the downtime to learn about marketing on Twitter and Facebook.


Offer reward plans.

To keep customers walking through your doors, launch a rewards program. For instance, you could incentivize repeat customers by offering $10 off of every $100 they purchase.


Organize an event.

Bookstores might host author readings, writer's workshops, and other events to get customers through their doors. If you run a sporting goods store, you could offer a class on winter running, which will naturally get more customers to buy the clothing they need to stay warm on their jogs. Be creative and find ways to organize events or connect with local groups that will spend money at your store.

Take a look at "8 Classic Retail Startup Mistakes to Avoid" to learn about other problems that might trip up your business.

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