In destination marketing, the term “shoulder season” stands for those times of the year when nobody seems to want to travel. Occupancy rates are down at lodging establishments, restaurants are below capacity, attendance at attractions is down and retailers see fewer customers walk through their doors.
In many places in the northern United States, winter is the shoulder season. In Wisconsin, the post holiday shopping phase of winter is the ultimate shoulder season. And springtime in Wisconsin, with its unpredictable weather, can also be excruciatingly slow for the state’s travel industry.
Shoulder seasons are a challenge. But as any business owner knows, the most constructive way to deal with a challenge is with thoughtful action. So, here are several tried-and-true methods for increasing business during Wisconsin’s often long, generally unpredictable winter travel shoulder season:
Create an event. Mid-winter festivals, open houses, trunk shows, live entertainment—nearly any out-of-the-ordinary happening can be used to drum up business during the long winter months. Though it’s hard to lure people out of their warm homes, there is such a thing as cabin fever. Give people exciting reasons to travel, promote it properly and you’re on your way to injecting some warmth into frozen winter sales numbers.
Target winter enthusiasts. Just who are these folks who love winter? Snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, ice anglers, geocachers and downhill skiers. Target these niche markets with products or services that are significant or timely to them and you might find a new area for sales growth during the winter. Targeting might be as simple as putting a sign outside your business that says, “Welcome Cross-Country Skiers.”
Be big and bold with your sales pitch. Winter is no time to be a shrinking violet. Use big signage and bold sales language. Big, Big, BIG and hot, hot, HOT is what we’re talking about. It takes a bit more muscle to move consumers during the mid-winter months.
Valentine’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day. Face it—winter can be very long in Wisconsin. You need to use any excuse possible to create some excitement and interest. Mid-winter holidays like Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day—or any holiday, real or made up—can serve as the basis for some type of promotion.
Overnight packages. During late winter and early spring, travelers in Wisconsin tend to be short-term planners. Offering overnight packages or other special package deals can entice these last-minute trip takers.
Cross-promote and partner. Work with other businesses and local allies to help one another increase customers. Strategic partnerships between restaurants, lodging and retailers can help to boost everyone’s mid-winter sales numbers.
Thoughtful action is the only way to counteract the inevitable shoulder seasons that come around each year. Make plans this year to have your best winter ever.