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Did You Hear The One About The Ice Cream Van?

I woke up on Saturday morning; the sun streaming in through the window and impulsively decided today was going to be a beach day. Sun, sea sand, we have to grab every opportunity to enjoy good weather here in Edinburgh.

Not long after, I’m paddling in the sea, gentle breeze on my face, loving the cool water lapping at my feet. When my thoughts were interrupted with that familiar sound of tinny bells from an ice cream van. It might have been ‘greensleeves’ but don’t all the tunes sound the same when they come from an ice cream van?

I was immediately 5 years old again, desperate for a cone. And looking round, I could see that music had the same hypnotic effect on everyone else on the beach.

Walking towards the van, I tried to decide what treat to have and noticed everyone else, once again, doing the same thing, heading for the van to fill a void that hadn’t existed until they heard that music.

Someone said, ‘He’ll make a fortune today,’ and I switched from contemplation of sugary treats to hoping he’d made extra to have enough to satisfy all his customers.

And while I was being served I thought, this guy will be raking it in today but what does he do when it’s cold and raining and there’s no-one around? Just how creative is he in creating opportunities to sell his wares for the rest of year?

And ice cream isn’t the only seasonal product. Do seasonal business owners create opportunities to sell outside of their core business to keep the business busy all year round or do they operate on a feast or famine basis?

“Life was so much simpler when… our biggest fear
was missing the ice cream van”

Johhny M

For the ice cream van, it’s relatively easy to find alternative markets; birthday parties, school fetes, exhibitions and rock concerts. He could even alter the product offer with chilled alcoholic ice pops. However there would be research, marketing and diary planning involved in being successful in alternative markets, it wouldn’t be as simple as rocking up to the beach on a sunny day.

And yet, there are businesses that trade on their seasonality, using it to make them exclusive, high premium and desirable to their customers and in turn highly profitable. Wimbeldon is a great example of this. With most money made in a month of high profile tennis and social events and the rest of the year used to restore, upgrade and enhance facilities and marketing.

Boots is another classic seasonal business, with 80% of their turnover and profit made in the 12 week run up to Christmas.

What about your business? Is it in any way seasonal and how do you leverage that?

Think about your core product, about who they are for. Do you capitalise on the seasonality, making it exclusive? Can you do that and still diversify into other markets? Wimbledon offers training and conference facilities all year round that have nothing to do with the core business and keeps money coming in.

Whether it’s a simple ice cream van, Wimbledon or your business, seasonality is an opportunity to grow your business and allow you to be creative and have fun with it.

So, if it’s sunny outside, sit down in the garden with an ice cream for a while and think about how you can increase your business with seasonal offerings and marketing.

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