Running a business in a popular tourist destination can help you get lots of foot traffic and opportunities to attract new customers. But it can also be a challenge to manage a business that experiences extreme busy seasons and slow seasons.
The Spice and Tea Exchange is one such business. The company sells teas, spices, seasonings and other specialty products in cities around the country, focusing especially on locations that are popular with tourists. In an email interview with Small Business Trends, CEO Amy Freeman shared some tips for similar businesses looking to stay productive even in the off season.
Offseason Tips for Tourism Businesses
Vary Store Locations If Possible
Different locations usually have different busy seasons. So if you’re looking to open a business with multiple locations, you could potentially get the most benefit from tourist traffic by choosing locations with varying busy seasons.
Freeman explains, “Florida experiences slower months in the dead-heat of summer, while our New England stores experience some of their best. Northern locations experience inclement weather in the first quarter of the year, which tends to slow inbound traffic to the area. October through December are a full-force sprint for all locations during the holiday season. While this may pose a challenge to some, we choose to look at the variation in in-store traffic as an opportunity to hone in on our seasonal offerings to create positive, memorable experiences for guests both in-store and online.”
Find Selling Angles That Work in Different Seasons
To make your products more appealing to people around the year, create selling angles that work in different seasons — even if you don’t change up your actual product lines much. The Spice and Tea Exchange sells the same basic products throughout the year. But the marketing angles change based on the seasons.
Freeman says, “We are fortunate to have a concept that is relatable during every season of the year; from cold weather teas and soups, springtime healthy eating goals, summer grilling and iced beverages and savory fall flavors and holiday dishes.”
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Create an Ecommerce Store
If people aren’t likely to come buy your products during your slow season, you can drum up more business by bringing your products to them. The most popular way to do this is to set up an ecommerce store on your website so customers can simply order products and have them shipped to them. The Spice and Tea Exchange, while operating and franchising retail stores around the country, also gives customers the option to view products and order online.
Utilize Pop-up Shops and Events
Another potential option is to visit other areas or events to sell your products. Set up a pop-up shop in an area that happens to be popular with tourists in a season where your area is slower. Or visit trade shows, fairs or other events that allow you to meet your customers where they actually are.
Engage With Customers in the Community
Even if the bulk of your customer base is made up by travelers, it can help to market your business to people who live locally, especially in the off season.
Freeman says, “For our stores, the off-season is the perfect time to engage with ‘foodies’ right in our backyard. From hosting chef demonstrations, cooking 101 courses, co-branded food events and attending farmers markets in the area, these community-driven activities bring in guests who are interested in learning more about food and how our products can add a homemade and healthy twist to their daily routines.”
Promote Your Business to Employees
One way to get your foot in the door with local customers is by starting with your own employees. Offer discounts, promotions and fun events to get your team and their family and friends to support your business throughout the year.
Freeman says, “Every business in a tourist-heavy area is staffed with employees from the surrounding communities. Make sure that you offer this group a “friends and family” program at least twice a year to ensure this group becomes raving fans of your business and products. This group can become a tremendous word-of- mouth marketing machine!”
Expand Your Market
You can also explore some more unorthodox ways of expanding your market during the off season. For example, The Spice and Tea Exchange uses slow times to build a base of B2B customers.
Freeman explains, “We encourage our franchisees to “cross their lease lines” in order to attract local B2B into their stores, such as restaurants, breweries and other services needing high quality spices and teas to operate their day-to- day business.”
Use the Slow Season to Plan for the Upcoming Rush
Of course, having a slow season also gives you some extra time to prepare for the rush ahead. You can use that time to catch up on bookkeeping, create business plans, get ahead with your marketing efforts and stocking up on materials that you’ll need when the tourist rush returns later in the year.
Freeman says, “We encourage business owners to work through their business plans for the next season to get ahead of their game.”
Focus on Employee Training
You can also use that time to make sure your employees are completely trained and ready for the rush ahead.
Freeman says, “Training is a large part of how we create the interactive experience in our stores; we pride ourselves in being able to assist guests with helpful recommendations based on their tastes and interests, and provide tips for each product to encourage experimentation in the kitchen. The off-season can give you the breathing room you need to step back and re-focus on how the business is operating and how to improve upon it.”
Use Your Location to Attract Top Talent
Tourist areas are often considered to be great places to live. And that can be a big benefit for the businesses in those areas who are looking to attract the best employees possible. If you can convince your ideal employees or franchisees that your location is worth relocating to, then you don’t have to limit yourself to a small pool of local hires.
Freeman says, “A major benefit to operating in a tourist area is that it is where many people want to live. We find our franchisees are willing to relocate to these very “cool” areas to open their stores.”
Closed Season Photo via Shutterstock