Every retailer experiences slow seasons. But it can be tough not to take a slow month personally—especially if you’re having a quiet January after a fantastic December or Q4!
One of our Master Shopkeepers members, Jen Dunne of Rustic Rehabs, inspired this episode. All of the shopkeepers in our groups struggle with slower seasons, but Jen and I recently had a lengthy conversation about it.
Jen joined Master Shopkeepers before she’d even opened her brick-and-mortar space. She knew what she wanted, so she decided to surround herself with other retail store owners and soak up their knowledge. Now, Jen has two spaces: one for retail and workshops and another office/recording space for her growing YouTube channel.
So how can you keep your spirits and your momentum going even through a slower month? Let’s look at some ideas.
Understand That You’re Not Alone
Many shops experience slow periods in the “J” months of January, June, and July.
December—or really, Q4—tends to be a HIGH month for many retailers, so January tends to slow down. June and July slow down, too. Summer means spending more time outdoors and less time shopping.
Of course, the slower “J” months don’t apply to ALL retailers. Depending on your business type, the area you’re in, and/or what you sell. You might experience slow seasons during different months.
But regardless of when you experience a slow season, it’s essential to recognize that you’re not alone.
Remember: Retail is a Long Game
If you are new to owning a retail business, you may not have realized how much sales and foot traffic can drop in January. You may be questioning everything you put into your business over the past six months.
Or you may be questioning your business model, your ability to run a retail business, and all the business things because no one warned you.
Yes, we look at daily, weekly, and monthly sales. And, of course, I don’t want any business owner to ignore their numbers! But these numbers are just one part of the BIG picture.
I recently finished teaching the 2022 Retail CEO Challenge. During the challenge, I teach about many of the metrics that we can track in our brick and mortar businesses because I honestly believe knowledge is power.
When I teach shopkeepers HOW to calculate these numbers, I also teach them what they can DO with the information. But it’s important to note that many of these calculations and formulas are based on a full year of data.
When new shopkeepers join our membership groups, they often become anxious to hit the one-year mark because they want to calculate these numbers for themselves.
But once you have those numbers, that knowledge is there to help you play the long game.
Make the Most of Slow Seasons
No matter how long you’ve been in business, retail is a roller coaster ride. We go high. We go low. We coast. We go through it all during a one-year timeframe.
IF you can view your business in the big picture, though, how can you optimize or make the most of slow seasons?
I know that it’s hard to ignore the dopamine hit we get from lots of foot or online traffic and the constant cha-chings of our cash register or apps. But I’m here to help you protect your mindset.
It’s the FULL year or the big picture that genuinely matters. Not the one week where a blizzard or freezing temps took your foot traffic to nearly zero, or where maybe you had a negative sales day because you didn’t sell a thing, and then one customer walked in with a return.
If you’re a newer shop owner, you may not know your slow seasons yet. If you’ve been open 1-3 years, you probably do know—and you cringe at the thought of it or hate it.
Slow Down and Enjoy the Ride
During my conversation with Jen, she said, “We don’t properly find realignment” during slow seasons. And she’s right. As retailers, it helps to learn how to shift gears.
I have a classic Mustang. I’ve had it for years. She’s what classic car owners call a “driver.” She’s not souped-up or fancy, but she is pretty and fast.
I can’t always drive this Mustang in 4th gear. If I want to enjoy the ride and the scenery on a beautiful spring day, I have to get her out of 4th gear and slow down.
It’s the same in my business. I have learned to slow down. I have learned to embrace and enjoy these slower periods.
I now understand that it’s the big picture that matters in retail. Sometimes, I’ll be in 1st gear (especially when I need to rest and reset), and sometimes I’ll be in 2nd or 3rd gear when I work, and I’m productive. And sometimes I’ll be in 4th gear—for me, this is Q4. It is busy, and I love it!
But I also need the quieter times to plan, be the CEO, strategize, and have fun.
When we learn that our businesses are a year-long adventure, we learn to enjoy the ride.
- Jen Dunne of Rustic Rehabs on the web and on YouTube
- How To Survive The Slow Season in Retail
- How To Thrive During the Slow Season in Retail
- Join The Shopkeepers Lab
- Apply to join Master Shopkeepers
- [05:37] Understand That You’re Not Alone
- [07:35] Remember: Retail is a Long Game
- [11:25] Make the Most of Slow Seasons
- [16:18] Slow Down and Enjoy the Ride