During a recent beachside holiday, I witnessed again the challenges of running a small business in a holiday town. The town I visit for annual holidays, has a small permanent population of just over 6,000 which triples at peak holiday times. With this increase you expect business to struggle in some aspects of their operation, and these struggles become very visible to tourists. The tourist business is dual paced. Own holiday accommodation and your rates triple during peak times and demand fills the places, own the convenience store and your expenses increase but your revenue should increase.
Sea Change Business
Some of the businesses operating in holidays towns are operated by sea change owners. They may have visited the town on holidays, enjoyed it and made the decision to buy a business and move there permanently. This is usually not a great move. The quickly find that the best time of year is holiday time and during that time, they have their hands to the grindstone making the money to sustain them over the quiet times. This can and does lead to some bitterness and is often present in the attitude of the business owners. Instead of enjoying the benefits of living in their beloved holiday town, they are focused on business survival. That’s not what they signed up for!
Every year we holiday at our holiday town, we see the problems of businesses struggling to cope with the influx of tourists.
- The beautiful atmosphere of a coffee shop (with great coffee) with an inability to serve food due to the chef being off for the day on a personal day. The same coffee shop, visited the next day, where the only food being served was raisin toast as the chef had closed the kitchen early. (Held Hostage by the Chef)
- Walking the main street with many other tourists, at 7pm, (still broad daylight due to daylight saving) to closed shops. Even the convenience stores closed at 8pm.
- The fish and chip shop who created a great event with a sols guitarist playing to the crowd; brings in the crowd and then refuses to take walk-up orders from people attracted by the buzz. Bookings only it seemed, but the complaints also came from people who had booked and didn’t get their orders placed either. Being told by a cranky cook was one thing, having wide-eyed staff standing around contradicted the message.
- The competing fish and chip shop, just around the corner, dealt with the overflow by cooking one order at a time. A frazzled husband and wife team completely overwhelmed. In anyone’s language waiting 30 minutes for a serving of chips is woeful.
- The hotel that books in a street food fair, running from 11am through to 6pm. One of the food trucks attending had only one menu option from three, available at 1pm, being sold out of one and equipment failure cancelling the second. One would believe that the last remaining item was gone long before the advertised close.
Other problems like low stock levels and young kids serving with little or no experience are also problems faced with tourists wanting to spend their money. The national chains in town make a killing, the supermarket and the discount store and the state of small business drives people to them. They have the trading hours and the staffing structure that guarantees business.
The Tourist Desire
Tourists go on holiday and usually have a desire to spend time relaxing and winding down. They also have a desire to eat out, shop and generally move away from their normal routine. The problem that businesses face with a business as usual approach, is that it teaches tourists to be self-contained or shop with the national chains as they are guaranteed a standard of service and offer. They bring in their own food, their own drinks and their own entertainment, and the businesses miss an opportunity.
Every year we note that some businesses are no longer there. The ones that have closed and ceased to exist. This may happen for many reasons of course, and it happens everywhere, but is always noticeable when you return annually. A new coffee shop here, new owner there, The changing make-up of a holiday town.
Every business operator should have a business strategy to maximise the expected revenue growth over peak holiday seasons. That’s a starter. Have a plan to grow and maximise returns. Based on what is dished up, some of the businesses take a business as usual approach and try to maximise profits by maintaining costs and expenses. In the process, they lose the opportunity to truly make more revenue and profit.
The important thing is to have a strategy, and to plan for expected growth. The second most important thing is to implement the strategy. That may seem funny, but I see many plans that are left at planning stage. Take the time to plan and then execute the plan in a timely fashion. It’s too late when the chef is stressed and walks out (yes it did happen) to recruit and train another one.
Today I share five things that are critical for you to grow your business efficiently and profitably and to maximise your holiday period. If you simply look at a strategy involving these areas, your business will be better for it.
- Take a customer view of your business. Look at the levels of service you offer, the quality of your product and refine, improve enhance. Research to find when your tourists most want and need your services or products. If your business is closed when tourists are “window shopping” the main street at 7pm, you have no hope of getting that sale. Prior to the influx of tourists, arrange the team you need to cover the additional trading and train them to deliver the outstanding service your business deserves. If need be, look for contacted work periods (eg Christmas Casuals) to help you get back into usual business shape without additional cost after the season. The time invested in ensuring your team is in shape, will provide rewards better than anticipated.
- Keep healthy stock levels. The last thing your business needs is to be out of stock of your best offering, or summer’s latest product. It’s about striking while the iron is hot. Daily, restaurants play the “out of” game. Ordering from a set menu only to be told that the beef you have ordered is out for the day. To see other kids playing with the latest widget, but unable to buy one for your kids. The basics should never be out, and your best sellers always should be instock. The fundamentals of business apply, don’t be out of stock of what the customer needs.
- Seasonal Success. Every season brings new season products and offers. Fresh local seafood, beach towels and togs, be there and be seen. If you’re a restaurant, being known for fresh, local seasonal products will build a reputation that will be attractive for tourists.
- Promotions and Discounts Marketing. Every year a sports store takes the opportunity to clear last season’s sporting shoes to make room for the new season. I am positive that many a tourist has gone home with new running shoes as an unplanned purchase. After all, 40% is hard to resist. And it doesn’t have to be a discount offer. When people are on holidays they look for activities that are of value to them. Look at the amount of people exercising away last night excesses, walking the beach or running the hills. Is there an opportunity to team your products with holiday accommodation to offer value to tourists? Delivery services into camping grounds, or holiday rentals, PT Boot Camps on the beach, the opportunities are there. How can you realise them?
- Engage on social media. Social media is our new conversations and often when visiting a restaurant or coffee shop we now check in and tag them in our feeds. That’s a powerful one-way marketing tool that increases if the business then engages with the person. While away, I was taken by the charm, atmosphere and coffee, of a coffee shop and tagged them in a post sharing one of the quirky things they had in their shop. A great review and quirky pic, and all you could hear from the business was crickets. Silence. Engage, converse, wish the person an amazing holiday, thank them for the shoutout, show people that there is a person behind the business. That’s when you will really take off. Social Media is our new conversation, make sure you are part of it.
Growing your sales during holiday period takes some planning and discipline around execution of the strategy. But the opportunity is there if you wish to take it. With the proper planning you can reap the rewards of increased profit and having a balanced approach to enjoying your holiday town.
Tony Curl is a business strategist and coach who can help you deliver balance in business along with growth and profit. He can help you maximise opportunities by helping you formulate a strategy that enables you to win in the holiday season. Contact him today at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 1300 824 287