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How Seasonal Is Your Business?

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Finding out how your business changes at different times of the year can be something that many business owners learn in their first couple of years.

Being able to predict seasonal changes to demand and even how different types of marketing fare better at other times can allow you to be more effective.

Of course, for some types of business, it is obvious where there may be seasonality – if you work in tourism, for instance, you will have an idea from the outset of when you can expect your busy times to be and when you need to be pushing most for sales.

However, some surprising types of business can have significant seasonal differences, and even things you might expect to be roughly the same all year round can show trends that correlate to holidays or seasons.

So, what really defines seasonality, and how much does it affect you and your industry?

Businesses with Obvious Seasonal Peaks

Let’s start with industries where there are clear seasonal peaks and lulls, or even closed times outside of those periods.

Tourism, Travel

Tourism and leisure travel are clear examples, with school vacation times always the busiest for recreational travel. Some activities related to vacations are only available at certain times of the year when there are the right weather conditions.

Some other industries fall into this highly seasonal category, even though they are operational all year round. Businesses related to weddings, for example, will have some demand all year round, but vastly more in spring or summer.

Companies that sell products related to certain activities, for example, skiing or beachwear, will have some business all year round due to international travel but will see most of their sales at the peak times for their relevant activity.

Businesses like these can be reasonably easy to manage the seasonality because it is universal across their industries and highly predictable. The ‘off seasons’ are spent trying to get sales with promotions and doing the set-up work for the next peak season.

Businesses That Change Their Offerings Seasonally

The next type of seasonality is where the business has relatively stable demand levels all year round. However, what they sell and how they market it changes throughout the year.

Retail

One example of this is fashion retail. Naturally, the product lines on sale change to give people what they are looking for, for the current weather and fashion season. Still, there are also traditional sale periods between seasons when most retailers run their most significant sales and discounts.

Another good example is the garden industry. Garden centers and plant nurseries will sell completely different products throughout the year. They may completely restructure their sites around this, so California greenhouses are filling up their outdoor spaces in one season and stocking up on Christmas trees in December.

This type of seasonality can also be relatively easy to predict and manage but requires planning to ensure your business diversifies at the correct times and always has enough to offer to suit the season. A big part of this is also leveraging inherent busy times in the industry you are dealing in with the right promotion strategies.

Businesses with Hidden Seasonality

The type of seasonality in a business that can be most difficult to manage is not apparent. An excellent example of this can be in business services companies.

Professional Services

While it may not seem obvious, most office-based businesses that don’t have clear summer peaks tend to be quieter in July and August, simply because more key staff are on vacation than usual. This can make all kinds of services companies see a knock-on effect. For instance, recruitment businesses tend to see fewer new vacancies at this time of year.

Customer behavior can also change seasonally even where you may not immediately expect it to. People may choose to eat out more in summer or spend more money on home improvement in spring.

Did you know people tend to buy fewer books in summer but spend more >money in general when the weather is nice? Even businesses that relate to things you would think couldn’t possibly have seasonal demand changes can be affected. For instance, there are more personal injury lawsuits in winter.

As you can see, there can be degrees of seasonality for almost any kind of business. So it really pays to look at the data your business brings in and see where you could have seasonal differences you haven’t predicted.