Cold Weather Marketing: How Seasonal Businesses Stay Alive in the Winter

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By Danielle Duggan
Clinton County Chatter

While clothing stores have the luxury of swapping out their inventory to fit the season, seasonal businesses, such as ice cream parlors must improvise to prevent sales from plummeting during the winter months. Shaggie’s, an ice cream store in downtown St. Johns, is one example.

According to Shaggie’s manager, Michelle Thompson, Shaggie’s existed alone as an ice cream store for five years until April 2013 when Jersey Giant, a submarine sandwich shop, was added to the business. The store now sells both submarine sandwiches and ice cream to increase marketability and to keep sales from dropping too low in the winter.

According to Thompson, dropping temperatures decrease sales in winter months.

“We’re totally seasonal,” said owner Michelle Thompson. “Ice cream obviously is seasonable, but with the sub shop it’s seasonable too. We don’t have a drive-thru. It’s way too cold for people to come in.”

Many ice cream establishments, such as Scooby Doo’s in DeWitt, close during the winter; Shaggie’s remains in full operation. While Thompson said that a scarcity of winter customers is inevitable, she still does what she can to keep profits at a decent level.

“We let go of our Shaggie’s employees for the winter until April 1,” said Thompson, “and we have the Jersey Giant employees scoop the ice cream until then.”

This is the marketing approach that business expert R. Dale Wilson, chairman of the marking department at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, recommends.

“[Businesses] stop spending money, lay off employees, and cut their costs,” said Wilson. “The owner will work more in terms of servicing the customers instead of using employees too.”

According to Wilson, aside from protocols to save money, businesses also use the winter as a planning period.

“[Businesses are] planning for the future,” said Wilson. “They’re getting their promotions ready for the high season, getting products in place, and deciding what they’re doing when the customer come back.”

According to Thompson, though the winter will unavoidably bring fewer customers, Shaggie’s goal to keep things local will keep their loyal customers coming through the doors regardless of the temperature.

“All of our ice cream comes from Michigan plants. Trying to keep our product local and be a local family [is what differentiates us],” said Thompson. “We’re an actual family. My mom is the actual owner, my dad’s in all the time, my brother worked here for forever, and me being here all the time now; people recognize us as the family members…The people look forward to seeing us on a regular basis and I think that’s kind of huge.”


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