Some of your businesses have been taking a beating with this awful weather and when bad weather hits, it can cripple sales.
While winter is usually a slower time for consumer spending, January weather flowed right through February, and as I write this, it’s snowing heavily outside this March. Can this Spring’s outlook be that much better?
Some of you asked that I write about how to overcome a loss of business due to bad weather in this week’s blog.
I will in a second. But let’s first talk about the realities of bad weather:
Bad weather will impact sales immediately, but there can be a corresponding increase in sales when the weather gets better, IF the product is still useable during that later date. For example, you are a garden center and you have a massive selection of vegetable seeds. Bad weather hits for 2 weeks and delays planting for everyone. But then the weather clears and the customers pour in, intent on still doing their planting.
But this corresponding bump in sales doesn’t always happen. Here’s what happened in Colorado last year: You are a tire retailer and you stock snow tires. In Colorado last year, November, 2012 through February, 2013 were some of the lowest snow months in the state’s history. Do people rush in and buy snow tires in March? Nope. Spring is right around the corner with warmer weather. So many consumers in Colorado last winter didn’t purchase snow tires at all. Those sales were just lost.
We do know that when bad weather hits, the consumer has to decide just how important it is to go outside: Is the need for the product greater than the discomfort and risk of going outside?
Here some examples of products for which I’d risk going outside in a blizzard: Water, propane, firewood, toilet paper, a key ingredient for a recipe that I absolutely have to make, and alcohol.
The bad news for many of you is that you don’t sell any of these product necessities which can be crucial to a person’s survival. (You have also now learned my core priorities).
So how do you lure customers into your business, if you’re not willing to change your product focus to carrying water, propane, firewood, toilet paper, or alcohol?
You must go back to the three core drivers of a consumer’s emotional spending habits. If you’re going to be successful with a weather-abused consumer, you must play off these three core needs:
- You must create emotion inside your business! If you’re stuck inside a house for days or weeks on end because of bad weather, people start going a little crazy. The common term for this is cabin fever. So what can you offer a consumer who’s experiencing this malady? Entertainment! Excitement! Outside fun and stimulation! You must focus on event-oriented activities in your business that bring people together to have fun, like classes, parties, celebrations, and new product unveilings that are just too exciting to miss.
- You must alleviate boredom! Can your business become the oasis of stimulation that makes them say: “Let’s strap on the snowshoes, Honey, and head out to this store!”
- You must create urgency! Whatever offer you present to your targeted group of consumers, you must create limited windows of opportunity for them to take advantage of your offer. Words like “One-time only”, “Get in here today” and “Only available between 2:00 and 6:00 today” will let them know if they miss this limited time offer, they will regret it.
Finally, when bad weather hits (especially if you’re a retail store), your first inclination is to use discount marketing to bribe the customer through your doors.
Let me caution you on a few huge discounting mistakes during bad weather:
- Avoid giving a discount on a core product line that the consumer will buy later when the weather is better.
- Avoid giving percentages off. Consumers prefer getting actual dollar amounts on their discounts. Remember: Dollars off create more spending than percentage discounts!
- If you’re going to discount, tie the discount to another purchase. “When you buy 3 pairs of socks, you get a $10 discount on 2 packs of underwear.”
- Avoid discounting products that are “demand products” that the consumer absolutely must-have. Bad weather is probably only a temporary delay to the consumer’s purchase.
- Avoid discounting products that do not have a large enough profit margin to make you money.
- Do discount products that have a limited window of use. For example, you’re a grocery store and you know those perishable food products are not going to last. Mark them down and try to recoup some of your investment. Or you have purchased seasonal items that you don’t want to carry over to the next year. Mark them down and move them out.
This cold weather will not be here forever, but until it’s gone, start implementing some of these ideas in your cold-weather marketing. Let me know which prove successful to you, or if you have other ideas, send them my way at [email protected].
Thanks for reading this week, and stay warm out there!