5 Business Owners Share How They Survive The Winter Season  5 Business Owners Share...

 5 Business Owners Share How They Survive The Winter Season


19 Jun, 2024
The inside of the small business Norfolk Deli

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when temperatures begin trending downward, and rain is a common occurrence on the horizon, customers are more likely to stay in the comfort of their own homes than weather the storm to visit businesses. 

Whether you own a restaurant or retail business, you’re no doubt feeling the chill that the lack of customers is leaving inside your small business. 

To help you thaw yourself out of this predicament, we spoke to five small business owners to hear how they beat their frosty winter revenue. 

Drink in their advice to warm up your sales.

1. Plan ahead

Summer and Salt‘s journey began with a simple idea: crafting stylish sunglass chains. As founder Roxy Filmalters dived deeper into the business’ opportunities, she realized the brand had the potential to expand beyond eyewear accessories and transform into a full-fledged summer lifestyle brand.

However, as a summer brand, transitioning into the winter season presents unique challenges Roxy needs to carefully navigate and plan for. “One of the primary challenges we encounter in the winter season is the shift in consumer demand away from summer-related products,” she explains. “With fewer people seeking out summer accessories and apparel during this time, we are currently working on a small winter line to help us through the winter months.”

Along with prepping a new winter line, Roxy uses the slower winter period to set herself up for success during the summer season. “We utilise this time strategically to focus on developing new summer designs and planning our approach to maximize the potential of the upcoming summer season,” she says.

An image of two women wearing sunglasses that have Summer & Salts sunglasses accessories attached to them

2. Keep your overheads low

Ezanda Moulder started working as a swimming coach as a student. While completing her Master’s degree, she got the idea to open up her own swimming school and dove headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship.

While Ezanda first offered swimming lessons at local gyms, she jumped at the opportunity to buy her own space. Her business, Dolphin Swimming School, now boasts its own array of heated swimming pools.

Over the years, having a heated swimming pool has allowed Ezanda to continue trading in the colder months. “During Winter months, we have special swimming packages,” she says. “Warm pools are the key.”

Along with having facilities that allow her to operate through every season, Ezanda also focuses on keeping her overheads low. “My policy is never to spend more than what my income is in my slowest month. I try to keep 3 months of savings for unforeseen costs and invest back in my business. When clients see that they are at a growing facility that gives them the best possible facility and service, it keeps them coming back.”

Read more: Love Actually: How Passion Fuelled These Businesses’ Growth

3. Weather-proof your location

Norfolk Deli is the love affair of husband and wife duo, Chelsy and Marius Theron. Wanting to spend as much time together as possible, the pair brainstormed business ideas. “This was a “scribble your dreams on a whiteboard & then work as hard as you possibly can to make them happen” type of situation, says Marius.

Both Chelsy and Marius had previously worked in the food industry, so opening a deli ranked high on their list of dream businesses. While their business is still relatively new, the passion and care they have put into it have turned their space into a warm, lively atmosphere where customers flock in large numbers.

“Winter in Cape Town brings the normal challenges of fewer tourists and difficult weather conditions,” explains Marius. “However, we enjoy strong local support, and we’ve recently developed our outside seating area to be covered and heated for the winter season.

​​We generally use the winter season as a time to reflect on the season prior and work on ways to improve our systems going forward. This is also a great time of the year to get to any small renovations/fix-ups needed.”

An image displaying food a sandwich, coffee and croissant served at Norfolk Deli

4. Work on your customer experience

Horti.co.za, an online plant store, started out as a networking company in 2013. Founder Fiona Stafford felt that not enough South Africans knew about the wide variety of plants available in the country and where to source them.

Fiona launched the online store during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The store functions as an online marketplace, giving local nurseries a space to sell their plants online.

When sales are slow, Fiona embodies the greenery they work with by leaning into the natural ebb and flow of nature. “Plant sales are indeed fairly seasonal; however, there is always something to do in a garden! And it is often easier to transport/buy/plant a plant when it’s dormant (sleeping) during the winter season.”

During this slow period, Fiona ensures that they continue to provide excellent support to their customers. “I try to focus on how we can improve our customer experience and service – and range of plants and suppliers.”

Read more: Sisterhood of success: 5 practical tips for aspiring business owners

5. Host special events

Liberty Books is a charming bookstore situated at the Peregrine Farm Stall. Owned and run by Christy Weyer, the independent bookstore sells a large variety of both secondhand and new books.  While Liberty Books draws in many tourists who stop by the farm stall in warmer weather, that number slowly dwindles during the winter period.

“We do keep consistent opening hours and regularly replenish and refresh our bookshelves for those who visit us in the cold, wet months,” says Christy. “Liberty Books has a wood-burning stove that warms up the space wonderfully and encourages book-browsers to linger. Hosting author events in the winter months is also a good way to entice people into the shop and boost sales.” 

An image displaying the bookshelves inside Liberty Books

While all of these small businesses approach the winter season slightly differently, one thing is clear: planning ahead is one of the best ways to help your small business survive the slow sales during this period.

Whether you decide to offer discounts, host special events or build a space that allows you to trade year-round, being strategic about how you approach the season will help you weather any storm that comes your way.  

Written by

Megan is a Content Strategist at SnapScan, with a book-buying habit that is spiraling out of control.

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