As thriving timber merchants we are fortunate to have a core base of key account clients and a steady flow of cash customers consistently throughout the year, but by definition ours would still be described as a seasonal business. There is a marked difference between the monthly turnover in the peak summer months, to that in the harsher winter months of December, January and February but how drastic are these seasonal peaks and troughs and how best are they measured?
Historically we have always viewed the seasonal changes by looking at the sales figures, which do indeed give a good reflection of the volume of business but this year we have decided to drill down even further, to really be able to assess the impact that the fluctuation in business levels has on our business.
At present we are monitoring the volume of telephone calls, and with twelve different incoming telephone numbers, this itself provides an interesting analysis. The obvious increase and decrease in calls through summer and winter are apparent, but the smaller week to week fluctuations provide an interesting and useful insight when tied in with the marketing that takes place on those given weeks and, unsurprisingly, the weather.
We’re also monitoring our month on month web traffic and this seems less inclined to the seasonal fluctuations and is perhaps led more by marketing growth. Time will tell on this particular analysis but certainly if the seasonal switch indicates that our customers prefer to source online through the winter months, then that will play a large part in determining where we direct our resources.
For us, maintaining the balance is not just about ensuring that the cash flow of the business is not in a “feast or famine” situation, it is about giving careful consideration to our staff, our yard, our vehicles and our ability to maintain the optimum levels of customer service that we continually strive for. We need to ensure that we are in the best position possible with a consistent base of knowledgeable staff throughout the year, yet are also able to drastically increase that core of staff when the volume of phone calls and trade desk business increases (as much as 500% our analysis shows from a winter month to a key summer month). Whilst temporary staff are readily available through the summer season, for us the importance lies in the level of experience and relevant product knowledge, which poses a challenge when trying to find staff that can cover seasonal fluctuations.
The increases in the volumes of business, whilst always welcome, can take their toll on the yard and the vehicles. Pre-planning is important to ensure that systematic order remains in place in the yard and that the requirement for a speedier turn round does not impact safety and the level of organisation required to keep the yard in a structured, working order. The vehicles have to be well maintained and in a position to do their most mileage and carry their heaviest loads throughout the key months of summer, as having just one vehicle off the road in this period would be frustrating. Not an insurmountable problem in this day and age of hire vehicles, but definitely frustrating when we like our orders to go out on our liveried vehicles, further promoting our brand and the level of service we aim to achieve.
We’d be interested to her from our customers and other industry professionals as to how greatly they feel the seasonal impact and how they balance their business to overcome this fluctuation. Let us know your thoughts, either by posting a comment below or e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org