The dog days of summer can be a challenging time for businesses, especially ones on Florida's west coast that run on a more seasonal schedule, with the busy season often starting in October and tapering off in April. A recent Manasota SCORE panel event dubbed “Seasonality: Surviving the Summer Slowdown” spoke to that concern.
Stefan Sommerfield, who worked in the retail and clothing industries in New York and Florida for companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, says seasonality affects every business in retail. “The key to dealing with all seasonality is good information and planning,” he says.
John Horne, CEO of Anna Maria Oyster Bar, which has four Manatee County locations, told attendees it's important for businesses to bank money during the busy season. He also says it's crucial to budget. “You can't call your food distributor and say, 'Can I pay you in January?'”
Dylan Bower, manager of the Holiday Inn Sarasota Airport, says the hotel business is equally seasonal. During the first quarter of the year, he said the phones are ringing off the hook and the hotel is running at 100% occupancy. But it doesn't last. He says the hotel puts away money during the busy season with an eye on making capital investments later in the year such as painting and pressure washing the facility. “You've got to sock it away when you make it,” he says.
Horne says during the summer, his company aims to keep locals engaged, promoting deals that aren't offered during the season and sending emails to people on the Anna Maria Oyster Bar email list who live in certain ZIP codes. He also uses the summer to make necessary changes. “You're not doing anything in season but running the business,” he says. “In summer, you have time to read trade magazines. That's when you can tweak your menu and tweak your business. That's what's great about summer.”