Plan Ahead For Next Winter

Posted By Debbie on March 27, 2015

We have an outstanding (in a bad way) invoice to a client who keeps delaying paying. The invoice is for less than $2000. He is a local store outside of New York City. He said it was a bad winter… so few people came into his store, he can’t pay us.

I replied that I grew up right near his store. It snows badly every winter. One might think you’d see that coming. He wrote back that it was an EXTRA bad winter, and his foot traffic was down. It’s almost ironic that we’re getting paid because we built him an eCommerce website… which requires nobody to come into his shop to buy something. 🙂

I replied that I have a February birthday and never in my childhood went to school on my birthday due to blizzards. It was almost a joke around my house growing up. Debbie’s birthday is coming… prepare for the blizzard! I’m a bit of a loner, so spending every birthday looking out the window as the white crystals quietly covered the 1976 Ford, then the 1978 Chevy, etc… that was OK by me.

Expect Winter To Be Winter-y

I’m a consultant, and I KNOW that every year, I will have nearly nothing to do between mid-November and late-January. It’s just not a time when agencies take on a lot of work or need UX help. People aren’t doing a lot of hiring during the holidays. So my “business” slows down to nearly nothing for a few months.

I can’t stop paying my vendors. I have to plan ahead and have enough money to live and work on for those months.

I would think that most businesses open more than a year or two would notice what tends to make a period a slow time. Do they slow down in winter because they rely on foot traffic and people leave the house less? Do they slow down in summer because people vacation more and aren’t around to come into the shop?

This client should know better. Seeing as we first worked for them in the year 2000, one might imagine that he knows by now that winter can bring less foot traffic. Ultimately, his invoice being unpaid doesn’t make or break my company. But it is making me think about how much people are really planning.

I remember one time when a client emailed me completely frantic that his weekend sales were AWFUL and what the hell is going on that he had such a bad weekend on his eCommerce website. I had to explain to him that it had been Easter that weekend (he evidently didn’t notice), and that many people were probably traveling or with family. There were probably fewer people doing online shopping. I said if it doesn’t pick up later in the month, let me know. He wrote back later saying yeah, it was just that one weekend.

Notice Patterns and Try Predicting Your Customers’ Behaviors

Winter. I’d imagine fewer people going to shops unless they have to. Maybe spacing out their haircuts more. Postponing doctor visits. Less “going antiquing.” If winter weather can affect your local business, plan for that.

Holidays and special events. Do you have the sort of business that might see less (or more) business because of a holiday? I once went to Disney World in Florida on Super Bowl Sunday. It was a (pleasant) ghost town. Chances are that hotels, car rental, and other services that rely on Disney tourism saw a drop that week as a lot of the country focused on a special event.

School breaks. You might also have the sort of business that sees fewer people or sales when kids are out of school and families travel or send kids to camp. Maybe your business relies on people traveling to you.

You owe it to your business, your customers, and certainly employees and vendors you pay to notice patterns and plan ahead. If you will need to stockpile money when times will be or might be slow, then make sure you’re doing that.

Once you have identified these potential lulls, the second half of that then is are there any promotions you could run that would increase traffic or sales during those down times?