If you are in the ice cream or frozen dessert business you know that last year was a baaaaaaaad weather season. There was a lot of rain and not a lot of sunshine. The spring never sprung and by the time summer came along, most stores could not recover. End of year tabulations had you down. That’s the thing about the ice cream and dessert business, if it rains on Friday night and sales suffer, your customers do not come in on Saturday and buy twice as much - it’s just lost revenue.
So how do we combat this and weather proof your frozen dessert shop? How do we run a business that relies on visits when people just visit less in bad weather? How do we project our business when weather, which we have no control over, has such a tremendous impact? How do we guarantee our frozen dessert shop success regardless of the weather.
What to do about weather?
Listen, in the frozen dessert world there is no denying the impact weather has on sales. A rainy night means less people come to your store. The shorter your season (shore and vacation destinations) the more impact a couple bad weekends can have. However, I’ve also seen far too many customers blame bad weather for all their stores’ ills. Before you can look at weather as the reason you had a sales decline, you must first analyze EVERYTHING else.
This list includes but is not limited to:
- Store Aesthetics: is your store clean, fresh and new? Is your signage up to date and vibrant? Do you feature multiple avenues of brand recognition? Are your employees in uniforms? Is there music playing in your store? All these items play into the experience you provide for your customers.
- Menu: Have you updated pricing and offerings? Do you feature new items and a strategic roll-outs of menu campaigns? Are you selling what’s hot and getting rid of what’s not?
- Training: Are your employees trained to provide customers with the experience needed to create customers and not just make a sale? Are they taught to upsell and maximize each order? Are they personality plus or looking at their phone as customers approach?
- Marketing: Have you developed a marketing campaign for you store? Are you working with the community to help buoy sales? What is your marketing strategy?
- Destination: Ask yourself…are you just a place to get a quick dessert fix or are you truly providing a destination and an experience for your customers? Destinations are less impacted by weather. Compared to the ‘dessert fix’ option, a destination will do more on bad days and much more on good days.
So let’s assume you have all these major items under wraps. If so, I can guarantee you that bad weather has less of an impact on you than if you suffered in any or many of the categories above. Good news is, no matter where you stand, there are still even more things you can do to safeguard against a bad weather season.
Create a novelty and take home program.
Did you know that only 33% of frozen dessert sales are handled over the counter. That means 2/3 of all dessert sales are take home items. By creating a novelty and take home program at your location, you have the ability to grab some of this revenue. Additionally, on rainy nights when customers don’t want to leave their homes, they will open their freezer and enjoy your products. Thus you are getting the sale
Offer rainy day specials and incentives
Promotions can help to drive some traffic in the inclement conditions. You will not create the revenue you would have on a sunny day, but helping a little bit can work to boost the end of year bottom line. Make it clear. Make it enticing. Make it known. Use your social media channels to spread the word. These specials need to be spontaneous based on the weather you see. Promote big ticket items so even if you have less transactions, your overall daily revenue may still be solid. You can’t plan ahead - as you know predicting weather ahead of time is not an exact science. At the very least, you will get some good exposure for your brand with the marketing.
Consider delivery services
Delivery for an ice cream store? But wait…ice cream melts...and we're only talking $3 - $5 items? Well if you are looking to pick-up business in rainy weather or combat the cold, perhaps your answer is to bring your product to the masses rather than waiting for them to come to you. Sites like DoorDash and Grubhub are always looking to partner up. Structuring the price points and service fees to your advantage will be necessary as will maintaining a menu that people can order and follow online. With people less likely to leave their homes even on warm days, delivery may be something you want to consider.
Look at your product mix
Certain products within the industry are more weather dependent than others. For example, Italian water ice really relies on hot weather to take off. Where soft serve and hard scooped ice cream sell in more cooler temperatures. So if your store sales rely heavily on Italian ice, maybe trying to incorporate other ice cream or soft serve can help you in the shoulder months. Shakes and candy blend-ins are other items that move when it’s more temperate. The added advantage is these items fetch a higher price point than traditional cones and cups. No matter what you do, bad weather will have an impact. However, there are many things we can control as owners to help protect ourselves and minimize the negative impact. If we do those things our stores will be strengthened and then just imagine where sales will be should we have a great weather season! For more information or for a personal consultative look at your store, feel free to contact our team at Sentry Equipment. Now here’s to sunny days and clear sky nights!