Growing your business

How to Succeed in a Seasonal Business: Garden Centres

20 June 2017
3 minute read

When it comes to seasonality, some businesses will be more familiar with the peaks and troughs of it than others. One example of this is garden centres. With more than 2,500 garden centres currently operating across the UK, surviving those footfall fluctuations means that businesses would benefit from having a plan in place.

Worryingly, this hasn’t always been the case as according to reports, “two out of three UK businesses are affected by seasonality, yet more than a quarter of these fail to make any business plan to protect their bottom line during quieter times. Smaller companies are the least likely to have a strategy.”

Here are a few tips, including some guidance from business owners themselves, on how you can succeed in a seasonal business:

Forecast Business and Stay On Top Of Cash Flow

It’s easy to forget about cash flow forecasting when things are on the up. But having a detailed cash flow projection in place can be beneficial regardless of the season. It’s a good idea to plan this out for a 3-4 month period and map out all the cash you have going in and going out of your business.

You can then use previous sales data to pinpoint any date ranges that you think will be particularly slow and work out how you will financially cover yourself for this period. Taking a look at this on a weekly basis and making sure you’re always planning for the next 3-4 months means you can stay on track and keep on top of your cash flow before it becomes a problem.

David Moore, owner of canal boat hire company Valley Cruises, says "it is a seasonal business, and we do peak in the summer when people go for their holidays - but we can do a few things to smooth the change. We can take payment over the year, so if a customer books the boat for July, August, or September, we can take 25% or so of the payment earlier on, perhaps in December or January when people plan their holidays. It's important to predict and plan for the highs and lows, so we can to be sustainable with our cash flow when we know it's going to be tight."

Cover Your Costs In Advance

One of the trickier problems that seasonal businesses often have to deal with is getting enough stock for their busy periods. Garden centres usually experience spikes during spring, summer and bank holidays and will therefore be ordering the majority of their stock between those times. However, without a high turnover of profits coming in during the rest of the year, you won’t always have the funds you need to do this.

If this is the case then there are several options, including borrowing money from friends and family or taking out a Business Cash Advance, that can help you smooth over cashflow. Making sure you manage your stock rotations means that it’ll be easier to order your stock in advance without causing too much financial strain.

Use Quiet Periods to Make Plans and Observe The Competition

Quiet periods in business can be inevitable, but you can make the most of this downtime by using it to strategize. Take a look at what stock is selling and what’s not, and most importantly what products customers are requesting. This could include things such as outdoor furniture, barbeques, sheds and local produce. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of an ‘off-season’ spike such as Christmas where you can pick up trade by selling Christmas trees and decorations.

It may also be worth checking out the competition. Many garden centres expand their offering to help provide a boost during those off-peak times, for instance as lots opening a restaurant or cafe, or beginning to sell fresh local produce to keep business up - conducting market research on these ideas, could help you develop your own business!

 

While for many businesses, seasonality can mean changeable and sometimes uncertain times, adopting a few precautionary steps can help make the experience just that little bit easier.

 

Sources

Rating Manual Vol 5, Revaluation 2017, Garden Centres - Valuation Office Agency

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