Don’t let the recent sunshine fool you; winter may not be done with us yet. If bad weather strikes, even if your business is prepared for it, and all your stock deliveries and staff turn up on time, it’s likely that you’ll still lose money. Fewer customers will be browsing, inclined to start new projects or venturing out for non-essentials.
Research by Towergate Insurance in 2016 found that 66% of SMEs had lost revenue to bad weather, with reduced demand for goods and services being one of the top reasons for that lost revenue.
While nobody wants to encourage potential customers to brave a trip out if the police are recommending against it, in bad-but-not-risky weather, there are a few things you can do to encourage customers to turn up at your door.
Letting your customers know that your business is open (when they might expect it to be shut due to the weather), is important. It’s also vital, though, to let them know when it’s closed. In bad weather—particularly in icy conditions–you might be inclined to reduce your opening hours, so that any staff who drive to work won’t be doing so in the dark when temperatures have plummeted and the roads are at their worst. That’s sensible (and gives you a tick in the caring boss box).
However, do your best to make sure that potential or returning customers know about it. If a customer has bundled up and trudged through the snow to arrive on your doorstep at 9.00 a.m. or 4.30 p.m., it’s pretty galling for them to discover that this week, you’re only opening 9.30-4. An apologetic notice on your door and regularly repeated or pinned messages on your social media channels may prevent too many people from glowering balefully at your darkened windows. An email to everyone on your contact list would be helpful too, and your local radio station may make an announcement for you.
If you know that a route or car park nearby is tricky while others are clearer, that’s also useful information for your customers, reassuring them that they can get to you and earning you brownie points, too.
Offer special deals
Make it clear you’re grateful to customers who make the effort. Offer special deals and discount codes while the weather is bad, to encourage them to make that trip, place that order, purchase that item or book that service.
Offer a hot drink
Not practical for all small businesses, but a great idea if you can make it happen. A kettle and cups or a Tassimo, Nespresso or similar machine is all you need (they’re not all about coffee—you can make tea and hot chocolate with them too). On a cold, wet, windy or snowy day, and especially on a day that’s all four, a hot drink will be very welcome, making your customers feel they’re cared about (and dare I say it, a teensy bit obliged to make a purchase!).
Keep it cosy
A warm shop will make customers feel welcome and relieved to be inside. It will also make them reluctant to leave! Extra mats near the door to wipe their feet is a bonus for them and you, and somewhere to put their umbrella (one of the more attractive tall, plastic bins with the lid removed is more practical than a traditional wooden umbrella stand) is a good idea too. They don’t have to walk around your shop or office with a dripping umbrella (or opt not to come in for fear of dripping everywhere), and you don’t have to worry about your stock or your floor getting drenched.
If you have room to hang customer coats, you could even offer that too; it depends on the type and size of your business and how many customers you expect.
So keep your customers informed, cosy, comfortable and feeling important if you want more bad weather trade. Do you do anything special to encourage business in bad weather? Share your ideas.