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In a business that is truly driven by the seasons, there are steps that can be taken to ensure greater success. The two most important factors are managing cash flow and hiring the right employees.  Finding and keeping good employees is another key to succeeding in a seasonal business. Paying well and creating a positive work environment are obvious ways to gain good employees, but there are other tactics a business owner can use. Keeping employees informed of how the seasonal shift affects the company is a good idea, as the employees feel as if they matter more and are important part of the business. It also helps employees identify the best time to take a vacation.


When hiring new employees, owners may neglect two sources of good seasonal employees – students and retires. Students are perfect for summer jobs because their time off from school matches the business’s busy season perfectly, and most students need to earn money in the summer to pay for school in the fall. Retirees tend to make good employees because they may have years of experience in their field, but they no longer desire to work full-time. Therefore, a job that lasts few months each year is perfect. 


One other tactic that seasonal business owners can use to succeed is to expand their business to include a new product line that is seasonal in the opposite way of their original line. For example, a lawn and garden company that sells lawn mowers and offers mowing and landscaping services can add snow blowers to their product mix and offer snow removal services to complement their landscaping services. The new product should be similar to the existing product so that an owner does not have to learn a brand new business or invest a great deal of money.


Event- or Holiday-Based Seasonal Business

The second type of seasonal business is primarily set in the rental sector, although industry can also feel the seasonal boom as it strives to produce consumer goods for holiday-based retail sales. This type of seasonal business is driven by holidays or events that greatly influence consumer spending.  Christmas is by far the largest holiday that creates seasonal shopping. In fact, Christmas has become so huge that a study of retail sales reported that sales rise by 15 percent above normal months in December and drop 30 percent below normal in January each year. Other examples of event – or holiday-based seasonal periods include Halloween, Mother’s Day, graduation, back-to-school, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Muslim festivals. These events are held at the same time each year, which makes it easy for a business person to establish an annual schedule. 


Preparing for a seasonal event often begins months in advance of the event itself. For example, superstores in the past few years have steadily become more aggressive in their pursuit of back-to-school seasonal business. Almost as soon as school lets out for the holidays, the superstores begin setting up merchandise displays in advance of television commercials for back-to-school shopping. 

An example of this phenomenon is Christmas sales which seem to start earlier and earlier with each passing year as stores try to expand the selling season and turn a greater profit. In the past Christmas sales traditionally started on Thanksgiving weekend. Now in most stores, the day the Halloween decoration come down, the Christmas decoration go up.  


Non-Annual Events

The most extreme examples of holiday or event-based seasonal businesses are those once- in- a- lifetime “season” or one that is almost equally rare. An extreme example of this could be a type of solar eclipse that might be visible only from one-third of the Earth’s surface and that will not occur again for 120 years.  Tourism-related businesses in those regions where the eclipse was most visible  could expect a large boost in bookings over a normal year, even if that boost might only last a single day (or several days at the most).


Just as sometimes happens in true seasonal business, events of this type can sometimes be ruined by actions that are out of the business owner’s hands. Some insurance companies even offer a policy to businesses that protects them from unexpected losses if the unique event does not occur as planned. In the case of the eclipse, for example, if the day of the big event turns out overcast and rainy in the viewing area, then the expected increase in tourists that was hoped for on that day will never materialize. Money spent on advertising  or increased inventory for that day could be recouped under the terms of the special insurance policy. 


Perhaps the largest “single” type of seasonal opportunity  in history presented itself  at the end of 1999, as businesses around the world prepared for the New Year’s Eve that would signal the start of a new century (although the twenty-fist century technically started on January 1, 2001, people generally  celebrated  the event  as the calendar rolled  to 2000). In addition to all of the worldwide panic over the Y2K computer bug, which created an almost seasonal event of staggering proportions for the computer industry, there was additional fallout from that one-time event in many business sectors.


In the hospitality profession, for example, the initial reaction of hotels and restaurants was to charge exorbitant prices for special room and meal packages that evening. The thinking was that because the event was so unique, people would pay anything to experience it.  In fact, just the opposite turned out to be true. Most people, worried about the computer problem and put off by the high prices, chose to stay at home that night.  Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses were left scrambling, desperate to drum up any amount of business at the last minute; many were forced to offer refunds to customers who purchased their packages early in the process.


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Bernard Taiwo
I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.

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