How to Survive the Off-Season Sales Slow-Down

Vancouver’s Whistler resort, owned by Vail Resorts, is currently the most-visited ski venue in North America.

But as one of Vail’s 19 prestigious resorts, Whistler still deals with the reality of seasonal slumps. Part of Whistler’s off-season strategy includes summer activities like carnival games, ziplining, and bear-viewing.

Vail has recently taken a more aggressive ticketing strategy as CEO Rob Katz made the $899 “Epic Ski Pass” the centerpiece of its pricing structure. This upscale pass provides visitors unlimited skiing at Vail’s 19 resorts and partial access to dozens of resorts worldwide.

The effect has been substantial, with 2018 revenues rising 41.5% in just one quarter! With the Epic Ski Pass, Vail also removed discounts for skiers paying in advance on one- and three-day passes, instead limiting these discounts to early-season purchasing. While this has drawn criticism, county councilman Steve Anderson praised Katz’s bold move in incentivizing off-peak sales:

“For a company that runs a ski hill, that makes good sense because they get a lot of cash coming in when they are not in peak operating season, and as you get closer to the lifts opening, these bargains start to disappear,” Anderson told Business in Vancouver.

Strategic Sales Cycles

Every business has its slumps, and accounting for slow days is critical.

As you prepare your yearly budget, consider peaks and valleys in revenue and be creative in planning sales or service bundling options.

Resourceful entrepreneurs say it is helpful to break sales cycles into six seasons:

January-February

Post-holiday lulls may bring purchasing drop-offs, so smart businesses work to craft sales around health-related themes, branding or re-order opportunities, February holidays, bedding/linens/cozy comfort items, or electronic upgrades.

March-May

Spring is a time for renewing, cleaning out, or vacation planning.

Incorporate “think spring” themes like outdoor activities, Easter or gardening, trimming or tidying, tax-time incentives, or “going green” options. By April, finalize your summer sales campaigns and prepare to roll out hot new products or services.

Early June to July

Enjoy that summer freedom with longer days and lazy schedules.

People are spending plenty of time outside, so build your messages around recreation, refreshment, family, and everything that’s free and easy. Think weddings, outdoor gatherings, or strategic fall planning as you connect with your clients and plan your next move.

Mid-July to Early September

As vacations become memories, think ahead on school prep, fashion, fall landscaping, and new routines.

At this time, people are ready to stock up, plan ahead, or solidify year-end business goals. Also, a relatively new phenomenon is changing the second half of summer: Amazon Prime Day (mid-July).

As people take advantage of Amazon’s sales and free shipping that day, many online and e-commerce retailers also offer Back to School specials on this day. Even merchants who aren’t on Amazon tend to see a bump on Amazon Prime Day, so consider how you can grab this momentum and turn it your way!

Late September-October

Now those new rhythms are established, and the holidays are just ahead.

This season sees people finalizing home repairs or DIY projects, locking down system upgrades at work, and making major contacts before the holidays arrive. Find your client’s problems and find creative ways to help, because everyone likes a strong start to the fall season!

November-December

In this season retail sales explode and businesses plan for changes in the new year.

Whether this is your slow season or total survival mode, these months can make or break a business. Review data from previous years, tighten up shipping, or set aggressive agendas for the new year. Woo customers through holiday sales, Christmas greetings, or other incentives.

No matter when your slump hits, remember to push hard during the busy months and be strategic in the off-season. Set aside cash for slow months, plan for busy seasons in advance, and keep evolving in your skills. Your best years are still ahead!