Every year I make an effort to deliver this message regarding the summer sales slump to help you get proactive and manage expectations during this time so you can turn your slump into your most valuable season and as a bonus, avoid burnout during the holiday season!
This is about using summer wisely to avoid a lack of focus and preparing for a successful holiday season!
My hope is to make this summer sales slump feel less scary and to assure you that it is very, very normal!
I want to give you the heads up on what you need in order to maximize this season of summer and the season that’s coming after it based on what I know from real-life experience.
I hope you will remain open-minded and remember your own personal big picture. The whole WHAT and WHY of your business. Those things are personal and important to you, I want you to keep those in mind.
In this episode, you’re going to learn the three major pitfalls that most makers fall into during the summer months that you definitely want to avoid. It will also cover the timeline that you need to understand and know how to work with. Plus, the five key pieces to turning your slump into the most valuable season.
how to deal with the summer slump
We use the summer as an example of a slow season because that tends to be pretty common, followed by a busy season. You can apply these five pieces to whatever your slow season is though.
You might be familiar with the work I do in my handmade business, but if not, I do custom hand embroidery with an emphasis on stitched text and letterforms. Most of my work is made to order and personalized. It is important to mention because I know many makers work that way as well and I want you to know no matter what kind of product you sell, you CAN avoid burnout by preparing for the holiday season ahead of time.
I’ve sold my work online through the holidays about 10 seasons now. Not all of those seasons have been good. Some were very profitable but incredibly difficult. Some could have been a lot better, personally and profitwise.
I have sorted out the exact pitfalls and priorities for leveraging the holiday season that helped me to 4-10x my revenue in the holiday season. Even in years when my shop was barely open.
understand a slow season is normal
Before the profitable holiday season comes the slumptastic summertime season. Unfortunately, is pretty consistent for me and my business. I know for a lot of handmade business owners this is pretty normal. I know for a lot of retailers in general, this is normal.
The fact that it’s normal doesn’t change the fact that it also kind of feels like crap.
For me, sometimes the slump starts earlier in the summer, sometimes it starts later in the summer. Every year it slumps at some point and then October, November rolls around and things pick up again.
When my sales would slow down in the summer, I would start to worry, feel unmotivated, panic, have a lack of focus, and be unproductive. Then fall would come and I’d be busy and stressing for different reasons. It’s a pretty vicious cycle that won against me every year for several years
I realized, finally, that summer slump wasn’t meant to be fixed. It’s okay that things are slow, And that time is a gift if we know what to do with it.
slow sales in the offseason aren’t a problem
The fact that sales are slow in the summer isn’t the problem. The biggest risk for us makers in business during the summer isn’t with knowing how to avoid burnout but is understanding that energy zap – how the slow down impacts our mood, creativity, and focus.
Sales being slow is annoying enough, but it’s the effects that that has on us mentally that really creates drama for us down the line, that long-term sustained problem comes from that energy zap, lack of motivation.
You really have to maintain that positive focus and protect your energy during slow times!
We need to protect ourselves from the reaction to the slowness, the panicking and the worry because how we spend the summer will have a huge impact on the rest of the year.
the holiday shopping season is so short
May through August are THE months to set yourself up and avoid burnout during the holiday season. I know it sounds like a lot of time and it is – that’s a good thing. Right now, Christmas is six months away, that’s true. Awesome, we want to use that time wisely – for business and pleasure. If we think about the holiday shopping window, we see that there’s a lot to do beforehand.
Let’s take a look at that timeline now.
We know that the holiday season is a massive retail opportunity, but the average American doesn’t think about buying gifts for most of the people that they’re going to buy gifts for until at least Black Friday. That is, of course, the day immediately following American Thanksgiving.
Christmas is December 25, this year it is a Saturday.
Black Friday is the 26th of November.
Between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, there are 28 days including weekends.
Let’s say you’d like to have things in the mail by December 20 for that probable Christmas delivery.
Now let’s factor in your order deadline. If you have about a four-day processing window, that means your last day to take orders is December 15th or 16th.
That’s your total holiday window to reach and transact with your very average American buyer: Black Friday to December 15th-ish. That is a total of about 18 or 19 days INCLUDING the weekends. 19 days is not a lot of time.
And that window never gets any bigger, it only gets shorter based on your circumstances, their circumstances.
you should be processing orders during the holiday season
In order to maximize the window of opportunity and avoid burnout when the average American will be shopping, you need to start prepping now – plain and simple.
In that holiday shopping window, you ideally want to be doing NOTHING but processing orders.
Everything else should be done so that you can fill as many orders as possible. Let your time be spent on selling. Set it up so that you have as much time for selling as possible.
I know for me, The days and the weeks would pass during the summer in my own shop. Right. And nothing changed despite my efforts to get the sales to increase.
I just spent all this time trying to fix the problem of the slow sales, which didn’t work, but I lost so much time stressing about it that I could have been using it better. That’s what I learned the hard way. I spent all summer lamenting about the slowdown and all winter panicking through the increase. I know I could have taken more orders over the course of several years if I had been more prepared earlier. I know I could have done better work with less stress and made more money if I had just thought ahead.
Now I know what to look for, what to avoid, what to do, and what not to do.
I want to share those pitfalls with you so that you can avoid burnout this holiday season! Remember this is about professional and personal success this coming holiday season.
By using the summer to prep, I maintained that positive focus when things were slow and made more of the busy season once it came around and I was able to increase my revenue in December substantially.
The prep work I did in the summer helped me be more profitable and productive when I had the opportunity to make more sales.
look for these pitfalls to avoid burnout
Pitfall number one: trying to fix it.
This is such a fatal error that I fell into so many times. I know so many others do as well.
Summer slump is real but it makes sense. Here are a few factors that contribute to it…
There are barely any gifting holidays between Father’s Day and Christmas, wedding season is wrapping up and people are out.
In the summer months, people are at the beach, at baseball games, hiking, canoeing… enjoying their summers outdoors and traveling. People spend their money on experiences in the summer.
In 2021, this will be even more pronounced than usual.
The best marketing in the world won’t fix it for the same reason the problem exists in the first place — people are checked out.
The lack of sales is annoying enough but the real true pain of the summer slump comes in how that affects us. Whether your sales slow down a lot or a little this creates a lack of motivation. Sometimes it can even create panic.
Your natural reaction is going to be to fix this. You’re going to want to change the fact that it’s slumpy and slow in your shop.
Here’s how it happens: sales will be slow, you’ll panic, you’ll start reacting and in that reactive state you’ll start doing things that either aren’t going to work or they’re going to cause more problems for you down the line… or both.
You’ll try a promotion or a coupon (or free shipping or BOGO) or some kind of sale, and you’ll plaster it all over social and you will still feel slumpy.
The promotions won’t fix the problem for the same reason the problem exists in the first place: people aren’t there to see it, and they don’t need your stuff right now. But in the process of trying it, you create more problems.
Because when that doesn’t work, you’re going to feel even worse and begin to panic.
And spoiler alert, no one makes good decisions in a panicked state.
You might start tweaking things because you’re thinking something is wrong. You’re going to start undoing good work. It’s not that the things in your shop are bad or wrong. It’s that they just cannot work as well right now.
Please: if things in your shop worked before, leave them alone, resist the urge to undo good work!! This creates more problems than it solves for you down the road.
Pitfall number two: waiting too long to think about the holidays.
If you want to avoid burnout it is never too soon, but you can definitely put this off too long.
We already went over that timeline, but if you aren’t convinced yet, let’s just say you decide to wait until September to holiday prep.
Let’s say you wait until September 9th, between September 9th and Black Friday, there are only 11 weeks.
11 weeks might sound like a lot but think about your life in those 11 weeks. Your own personal Thanksgiving plans, Halloween, things you like to do in the fall, kids maybe going back to school… those weeks are busy! Summer weeks are busy too but when you give yourself more time, it’s fine!
It does take a lot of time and thought to put together a really great holiday plan. So if you start now that you cannot lose and again, we want you to maintain that positive focus throughout the summer. Waiting until September 9th is not ideal as it doesn’t help you mitigate the summer stress.
Pitfall number three: focusing too much on the wrong things once you begin to plan.
Many times this manifests as too much focus on inventory. Making product is the first thing sellers tend to think of. But for many sellers this isn’t even possible, just like it isn’t in my own shop. I CANNOT make bulk inventory ahead of time but I am still able to plan and prep.
It is not all about inventory. If you build up so much inventory, but you don’t have a plan for selling as much inventory as you’ve made, what’s the good in that?
Don’t spend a lot of time making product without a clear path forward for it.
Maybe building out inventory is a part of the equation for some people, and that’s fine! But either way, all of this is better with a plan! If you stop focusing so much on inventory, you’ll have a more balanced approach to your preparations and you’ll be more likely to avoid burnout.
Simply thinking about it now isn’t enough. We have to do something. Here are five steps to holiday prep that will lead to success and sanity.
SLUMP Framework for Handmade Business Owners
This is the framework we have created for turning your summer slump into your most valuable season: the S L U M P – it’s an acronym.
S is strategy.
This is like your big picture. What are you doing? Because just making inventory isn’t enough.
For some people that’s not even an option. You have to figure out what you are doing and changing, if anything. You have to decide what you are leaving the same, if anything. What is going on with your product line? Are you bringing new products? What is your overall strategy, and how are you going to sell those products this year?
L is for Logistics.
Once you know what you’re doing, you’ll sort out how is it getting done and when is it getting done? Logistics is a great tool to avoid burnout. It has a lot to do with looking back and planning ahead for shipping, surprises, communication and all these other things that will make it so that you and your customers are happy. Because, again, this isn’t just about them. What do you need? Identify what you need to get that strategy done in a way that makes sense for you!
U is updates and upgrades.
Where do we need to improve things for you or the customer? What are we actually doing in our business that make up the parts of those logistics? Where are we directing the resources? What’s going to make a difference and who is it making a difference for? What do we need to do to make it happen? Think about your customers– maybe there are things you can do for them to upgrade their experience. We’re going to identify them and then implement them!
The M is for merchandise.
This is the fun part. So this is merchandiZE, the verb. This is the part that people think about immediately first— inventory! Deciding what you are bringing to market this year and outfitting those things for this season. No, that does not mean putting a Santa Clause or a reindeer on everything. It doesn’t even have to mean changing your product.
Sometimes it’s just thinking beyond the next sale, thinking about what you’re doing in your shop, how you’re presenting things, figuring out what that means for you and your products and ultimately your consumer. How do we merchandise and also the merchandise that we are selling?
P is for promotion.
This is also a fun part, but most sellers will only put their effort here. Building out smart and lucrative promotions or not looking at examples, thinking through the process, and being proactive about your promotions. It’s not just sales and coupons, but campaigns that actually help you long term. Deciding what you’re going to offer and when is essential and how you’re going to get the word out about those promotions and those offers is vital! Not all promotions are good promotions, and that is something that’s very commonly misunderstood. The best promotions have a lasting positive impact. They don’t just make you fast money. (We’ve identified some excellent promotions inside of the program.)
Most sellers will only pay attention to one or two of these areas, and not even comprehensively. Don’t be that seller.
That is the framework of the holiday prep plan that I have developed for you that I outlined more fully in the program so that you can avoid burnout and not suffer! Because suffering sucks, and positive focus breeds positive results. But let me make it easy for you because I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and I don’t want to do it again! If you want our help navigating this season AND maximizing the following season, grab our guide at slumpframework.com. You can also hear from some of our unSLUMP alumni and check out the bonus items we’ve included in the program for you.
No matter what you sell, everyone can prepare for a more successful season, and we can show you exactly how in our unSLUMP guide.
Even without the guide, being aware of that timeline, the five pieces of the framework, and the pitfalls is hugely beneficial! If nothing else, I hope those insights help you navigate this summer and avoid burnout this holiday season.
If you want my help bringing this into a complete, clear picture for you and your business, join us for the entire unSLUMP program.
It doesn’t matter what your product is. This guide can help you maximize your summer and holiday season! If you haven’t experienced a summer or holiday season before, this will help you avoid the downfalls. If you HAVE, this will help you make more sense of what you’ve learned in the past and remind you of certain things that are easily forgotten. This is all about working with your unique business.
We wish you all the best this summer and into the holiday season!!