Not everything slows down during the slow season

Published On: October 13, 2015Categories: Features, Management, Resources

Preparing for seasonal lulls includes finding ways to generate income when business slows. One way is to encourage customers to put off certain types of projects until the off-season.

Mark Hood, MFC, of Hood Marine Canvas and Training, Merrimac, Mass., uses this tactic for customers requesting interior or cushion work. Offering a discount for waiting is also used by Greg Keeler of Oyster Creek Canvas in Bellingham, Wash., who does so for projects such as new cushions or boat tops. Charles Klein of Dorsal LLC. in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., offers a 10 percent discount on work performed from after Labor Day until New Year’s for individual customers if a marina or boatyard is not involved, and a 13 percent discount for commercial customers, who comprise the largest and most important part of his customer base.

Canadian Chris Lohmann of Lohmann Sails and Covers Ltd. in Ladysmith, British Columbia, is busiest in autumn, when he makes winter covers. He gives a 10 percent discount for covers ordered during his off-season, and provides repairs and other maintenance services only during that lull. The Canvas Shop of Avon, in Avon, N.J., also offers discounts for work scheduled for its slower season.

Another way to augment off-season income is to store customers’ boats or canvas. Hallett Canvas & Sails Inc. in Falmouth, Maine, will remove canvas and sails and inspect, clean and repair as needed, and store them. Owner Richard Hallett discounts the cost of winter canvas storage 10 percent for customers who reserve this service by Dec. 15. This discount increases for customers ordering replacement sails.
The decision to store takes into consideration available space, insurance liability and cost and labor constraints. The Canvas Shop of Avon doesn’t store canvas for insurance reasons, and doesn’t reinstall it due to manpower and time constraints.

Some fabricators stock up on supplies before their lull begins. Some don’t see the need for that, claiming most items are within one day’s delivery. Others buy supplies whenever they’re on sale, maintain a one- to two-year supply to avoid needing to buy fabric when it is expensive, or use up stock from the previous season in order to increase profit margins, reordering once business accelerates. Still others order textiles for each job, but keep a supply of hardware on hand. Using a combination of these approaches is also an option.

Reducing your workforce when work slows means employees may not return for the next busy season if they find other work. One way to retain employees during the off-season is to find something for them to do to improve the workplace. Another is to expand the types of fabricating you do, which can help a business survive and keep employees occupied.