The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has come and gone, presents have been unwrapped, your decorations are down and packed away, and you’re ready to start with a clean slate in the new year.
But while your small business is gearing up for the new year, your consumers might not be as ready to dive right in. While December is known for being a big-spending month, particularly in the consumer space, the same cannot always be said of January.
People are curbing their spending in light of holiday sprees and gifts received and many aren’t dining out as much due to endless holiday leftovers and new year health resolutions. As a small business owner, how do you deal with this slow season? We have a few ideas to find the upside in this natural downswing.
Evaluate Cash Flow
One of the biggest challenges small business owners have is cash flow. When you hit a slow start to the year, it can be hard to manage the cash you have on hand for everything in your business. Spend some time this month evaluating your budget and expenses so you can be prepared for the year ahead. If this is a tough time for your business, look at what you can cut back on to save some cash.
Start Your Spring Cleaning
Time moves fast, especially in retail. Spend some time evaluating your inventory and getting prepared for the next season. January is a great month to start clearing out winter inventory to make room for spring. In addition to winter apparel, early Valentine’s Day gifts, Christmas décor, watches, and linens are also common items people shop for every January. If your small business sells any of these items, this is definitely the time to get some sales going. Additionally, it’s not a bad time of year to get started on some cleaning and organization. Tax season will be approaching soon, so now is a great time to start gathering any receipts or forms you’ll need so you can be prepared to file accurately and on time.
Offer Creative Promotions
It’s going to take a really enticing deal to thaw the January spending freeze. By getting creative with your promotions and offering something people will want, you can increase your sales. Did you sell a lot of gift cards or e-gift cards during the holiday season? If you have the e-mail addresses of recipients, send them an email with a special promotion to entice them to spend their gift card or consider purchasing additional items, or to reach a broader audience post your message on social media for all customers to see.
December is a big month for going out and dining at restaurants. When January hits, people want to spend more time at home and recover. This is a great time to offer a new takeout deal or a “New Year, New You” healthy meal special if you are a restaurant owner. This could work for both carry-out and delivery—and January might be a good month to test out delivery as a service if you don’t offer it already. Even though you may have fewer people in the restaurant, you can still get sales from the people dining at home.
Start a Loyalty Program
People love to be rewarded for their spending and have the opportunity to earn free items in exchange for their purchases. If one of your business goals for the new year is more customers, launching a loyalty program can be a great place to start. A common practice with loyalty programs is to offer something free after the 10th purchase. For the month of January, think about decreasing this to five purchases. By setting a smaller, more achievable goal during that month, you may be surprised by the traffic you see coming in your business.
After the success of the holiday season for many small business owners in the retail and restaurant industries, it can be hard to deal with the sales slump that can occur in January. Seasonal downswings are common, and if you know that this is a historically challenging time for you, there are ways that you can prepare in advance of the next cycle. At the very least, this would be a good time to get some brainstorming and planning done to increase sales during the rest of the year.