How builders’ merchants can avoid the winter sales slump

on 03 November, 2015

Most retailers brace themselves for a busy period in the build-up to Christmas. They’ll hire temporary staff, increase stock orders and maybe even extend their opening hours.

Once Christmas arrives, the Boxing Day and January sales offer another huge source of potential revenue. However, for builders’ merchants, the winter months tend to be the slowest period of the year, with DIY sales plummeting and trade customers scaling back on work. Many merchants cross their fingers for milder winters – but there are some rather more effective measures you can take to avoid a winter sales slump.

Preparing for winter

Centre a late autumn marketing campaign on preparing properties for winter. If you have a website, you could create a series of articles on how to do this correctly, from checking boilers and pipes to clearing out gutters. Where applicable, this marketing campaign can mention relevant products that you stock for these tasks, but the advice itself is valuable.

Think outside the box: you might not offer annual boiler services but you could team up with a local tradesperson and recommend them in your marketing campaign (in return for an endorsement from the tradesperson). Be sure to emphasise the value in completing these winter preparation tasks, not just in terms of costs avoided, but also in a property’s long-term value.

Expand stock offering

Even if you normally try to keep your shop as a specialist store and avoid branching out into other product lines, winter could be the time to break your normal rules and diversify. Kindling, fuel, rock salt, de-icer and pipe lagging are some products you may wish to consider.

Order small amounts of this new stock in early winter and use your stock control software to monitor how it sells. Remember to use social media and other forms of marketing to let your customers know that you’ve expanded your offering for the winter months, and advertise these products prominently in your window displays to attract passing trade.

Sales and discounts

The right sale will not only improve your cash flow but also increase your revenue well above normal levels. Deep discounts may be eye-catching and effective in the short-term, but if you use them too frequently they will quickly lose their potency.

The winter is certainly a good time for merchants to hold a sale, but make sure you apply discounts carefully, with regard to profit margins, stock levels, and purchase patterns. If you are reluctant to run a full sale, you could instead send out vouchers to customers via email, giving them some great deals – but only for a limited time.

This approach may not grant you any significant additional revenue, but it will help you smooth out your cash flow, bringing some revenue forward into the winter months. Whichever sales strategy you choose, ensure you commit to it.

The most effective way to avoid a winter sales slump is to learn from the mistakes and successes of your business during the previous winter. Point-of-sale software is key here – you can monitor how sales of individual products and product lines vary over time, allowing you to pinpoint the effects of your sales and marketing campaigns.

Paul Corbet is account manager at Integrity Trader. 

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