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Seasonal business! How to ensure sustainability all year long

Article written by Marius van Wyk (ActionCOACH SA Garden Route partner & business coach)

As a coastal town, George is well-known for its tourism and hospitality sectors with traditionally seasonal businesses experiencing a current growth curve. Additionally, numerous third parties service these sectors, such as cleaning, maintenance, linen, laundry, interior design, canvas provision, and more.

According to the George Municipality, it is “the third largest municipality, in terms of population, in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and is situated in the Garden Route District of the province. The municipality serves 294 929 people from 85 931 households (Statistics SA 2023) across 28 wards including Uniondale and Wilderness – with service hinterlands geographically separated from the main city area in George.”

With the relocation of many South Africans over the last four years to coastal cities and towns, new opportunities for tourism and hospitality in George are possible due to the improved spending economy in these regions and the local population’s expansion. These opportunities include the possibility of extending ‘seasonal’ business to appeal to regional and local customers during off-peak periods with promotions and events and mitigating reliance on normal tourism flows.

Many regions have proven that events such as adventure tours, cycle races and more – can take place at any time during the year. Whilst weather conditions do impact these types of events, there are always regional and national audiences for events that are well-hosted and managed and provide interesting experiences; even in autumn and winter weather. Tourism businesses, including tourist offices, could potentially create new niches for themselves in coastal locations that have their own wild appeal, and assist both tourism and hospitality businesses by doing so.

Whilst budgeting and forecasting for traditionally seasonal businesses should always reflect seasonality, the low-season effects can, to some extent, be countered by running special promotions to boost sales at a local and regional level. Building a brand, and brand awareness should be an ongoing process to keep your products and services top of mind throughout the year. These can be increased as holiday times approach. Some examples are, winter getaways and experiences at a good rate for regional audiences, business conferencing facilities with added value activities at competitive rates, and more, have been known to provide many seasonal businesses with revenue during lower-season times. There is also the possibility of collaboration between businesses to provide great deals and promotions.

The local population should also not be underestimated. Restaurants in George remain busy all year around and if your seasonal business can provide real value to the local population, your brand grows within the community. An example of this could be to offer locals reduced prices for items that are popular during holiday seasons.

The all-important cashflow planning can be bulked up by negotiations with suppliers for favourable settlement terms and ensuring that cash reserves in the busier times are invested for lean periods. The permanent staff complement can be kept as lean as possible, with seasonal labour deployed and outsourced service providers used for services such as cleaning and maintenance.

As a last resort, applying for overdraft banking facilities when businesses are in good stead, is a good risk mitigation strategy.

The local Business Chamber, BNI Chapters and tourism organisations are all good to belong to and network with. Every business that adds their voice to a pool of various organisations is a potential collaborative network partner. While building relationships within the localised business owner ecosystem can be beneficial, it may also be wise to observe trends and sales patterns adopted by competitors to inform and adapt your business model and tactical approaches. With seasonal changes come shifts in the needs and desires of younger generations, for instance. Now that Gen Z and Millennials are leading the spending and lending curve – according to TransUnion’s Quarter four 2023 South Africa Industry Insights Report – it can be beneficial to invest your time in researching what is ‘in’ now among these groups, what is next, and how you can jump onto that bandwagon, be it now or all year round.

The days of reliance on limited periods of time per year to sustain a business are over. In today’s economy, it is necessary to be innovative, inclusive, collaborative and to strongly lead your team towards creative solutions to sustainable business activities. And it’s very possible in the South African context. We are a resilient, tenacious, and forward-thinking nation.

ActionCOACH SA is a proud National Partner of the NSBC

About the author: Marius van Wyk

As a certified business and executive coach, former chief financial officer at several companies in the MTN Group, PwC senior management consultant, and Business Partners analyst, Marius van Wyk helps companies, entrepreneurs, and senior managers reach their optimum performance levels. Marius works with his clients through coaching interventions, training programmes, and workshop facilitations.

With a career spanning 35 years with a Forbes Global 2000 corporation, a  Big Four consulting firm and business partners, augmented by his outstanding academic qualifications and training, he has developed the capabilities and competencies for individuals and groups to progress from being good to great performers.

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