If you have been involved in the retail industry for very long, then you have inevitably discovered that there will be both busy seasons and slow seasons throughout the course of the year. For example, while many retailers will report their highest level of output during early December, both mid-winter and early-spring are characterized by much slower cash flows.
While many businesses will “scale down” during the slower seasons, others have found that this strategy can create some unintended consequences. Laying off a portion of your staff will not only decrease your staff’s overall level of experience, it will also decrease your company moral and may even motivate your top performs to begin looking elsewhere for work.
Fortunately, drastic cuts and layoffs can often be avoided. By adapting—rather than scaling down—your business, you can still yield positive cash flows while waiting for the busy season to return.
In this article, we will discuss some of the best ways your business can potentially navigate the slow season. Though the unique dynamics of your enterprise will obviously need to be accounted for, these innovative strategies have create surprisingly productive outcomes for businesses of all varieties.
1. Apply for Seasonal Business Loans
Applying for seasonal business loans is one of the most effective ways for you to “smooth out” your cash flows over time. During the slow season, your business will be able to have the incoming capital needed to satisfy your needs. During the busy season, on the other hand, you will be able to pay down your loans with minimal amounts of interest.
Many of these loans are designed with significant delays (possibly up to a year) before any interest payments are actually due. As long as your business can meet its future cash flow promises, these loans are considerably less risky than many of the alternatives. Additionally, due to the proliferation of the fast business finance industry, many lenders are currently offering same day business loans.
2. Convert Illiquid Assets into Instant Working Capital
In addition to seasonal business loans, you may also want to convert some of your less liquid assets into instant working capital. Using an opportunity cost framework, it will be easy to decide which assets need to be kept illiquid and which ones can potentially be converted into cash.
Common illiquid assets include certificates of deposit (CDs), real estate, certain bonds, and various others. By increasing your business’ current level of liquidity, you will have significantly more flexibility when sources of cash flow turbulence inevitably emerge. Working with an experienced accountant or outsourced CFO should make the evaluation process considerably easier.
3. Restructure Your Supply Chain
As is the case with many components of your business, proper supply chain management will involve you viewing the world with a “money in, money out” perspective. As the “money in” situation changes in mid-winter, then your “money out” situation may need to functionally change as well.
Instead of cancelling any of your ongoing supply contracts, many suppliers may be willing to offer you certain supplies on credit. This will largely depend on the structure of your company as well as the relationship you have with each supplier. Restructured supply chains may be ideal for businesses in the construction industry who hope to build an affordable stock of inventory before the busy season (usually late spring or early summer) formally begins.
4. Offer Sales to Existing Customers
If your business is like most others in the world of retail, your slowest season and busiest seasons likely occur very close to one another. Instead of engaging in tactics designed to attract new customers, it may be much better for your business to try and tap into the already established interest of those who have made recent purchases.
If someone made a purchase at your business in early December, for example, they likely have had a very recent experience using one of your products. Additionally, these individuals have already demonstrated a willingness to purchase your products at somewhat higher prices. By offering them exclusive, targeted, and specific sales—usually opt-in emails will be your best option—you can take advantage of their interest and have a relatively high conversion rate.
5. Focus on Building Your Business’ “Intangibles”
As you move into the slower season, you may want to begin “planting seeds” and focusing on the non-material components of running your business. This can include a wide variety of efforts including enhancing your social media presence and other content that is connected to your business online (press releases, SEO, SEM, content outreach, etc.). By focusing on these components of your business while your cash flows are relatively lower, you will be able to take advantage of demand reversals as soon as the busy season actually begins. Many of your businesses sales will take months—even years—in order to fully come to fruition. Making an active effort to improve your brand, extend your outreach, and increase people’s familiarity with your business will inevitably pay off in the end.
6. Celebrate an Unconventional Holiday
As you have probably noticed over the past few years, there are now plenty of “holidays” (such as National Margarita Day) that are actively being developed. While these holidays offer fun excuses for consumers to go out to eat or hang out with their friends, their commercial origins and usefulness cannot be ignored.
Currently, there are many different holidays available for your business to choose from and—by no accident—many of these holidays take place during the slower portions of the business cycle. For example, if you currently own a pet store, then you may want to consider celebrating national pet day (April 11th). Taking advantage of other, more traditional holidays in mid-winter—Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, MLK Jr. Day, etc.—may also help your business spark an otherwise unconventional sale.
In order to prevent your business from experience various ups and downs, it will be important for you to spread out your cash flows to the greatest extent that you possibly can. In addition to applying for seasonal business loans and other fast business finance options, there are many other creative options currently available. Keeping these helpful tips in mind, your business can gain immediate control of your cash flow situation.
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