September Slump?

Hey Gang - In the last 6 months our sales have been almost completely flat (which was a surprise, we expected summer to be really slow), with only a $200 swing up or down per month.

All of a sudden, this month is just really slow, we may be down as much as $3K when it’s all said and done. Our food rep says all his clients in town are down on sales pretty severely, and company wide they’ve seen a pretty big drop. Is this happening for anyone else? We still haven’t been here for a year yet, so maybe it’s normal to have a downturn in September, that doesn’t seem logical though.

There hasn’t been a major layoff around here, nor is any of our competition doing anything different.

September is consistently one of our slowest months, however a lot of our business comes from tourism, which gives an explanation for the downturn during this time of the year. We have really been fortunate this year - actually staying ahead of prior year sales, and so far MTD, we are 4% over last year September.

Good luck!

I am just up the road from you. I am having the exact same problem. The weekends have picked up from the summer, but Tuesday through Thursday is awful. I looked at last years sales, and it did the same thing, but not to this extent.

Update: I left the store after the first post and hung about 400 menus with a heavily modified Karington letter inside. Returned to the store two hours later to see my day manager leaving late and shaking his head “It’s insane in there.” I stuck around for a couple hours to cook, when I left we were 4x the sales we had when I left and about 15% over our normal Friday sales for that hour.

No Karington letter redemptions as far as I knew, but I constantly notice that when I get a good shot at pushing our product, sales always have a strong boost. It appears that all is not lost, although our region seems to be hitting a wall for some reason. We’re fortunate that we don’t really need to turn a profit, just cover our mortgage for a prime piece of property.

AJ: There’s only a couple spots “up the road” that I can think of for you to be, and they are areas covered by our food vendor, so don’t think you’re they only one getting hit. I go that direction every week or so, would love to stop by your place and take a tour. I can always learn something from someone that actually knows what the H.E.LL they’re doing.

Hey indie,

Couple of things that I noticed in your posts.

Doorhanging is a great idea. But your time might be better served in the store between 4pm and 6pm on a Friday night. We do our doorhanging five days a week, between 1-3pm. After the lunch rush and before the dinner prep.

I’m wondering why your daytime manager didn’t call to inform you that things were going ‘insane’ at your store. You’re out trying to get new customers, meanwhile lots of people are ordering and your store is experiencing the busiest hour of the week. I believe that during your busiest rushes it should be all-hands-on-deck.

The other thing I noticed was that you said your daytime manager was leaving when you got there. That he was shaking his head saying that “It’s insane in there.” If it was insane in there, WHY WOULD HE BE LEAVING ??? It’s not a bank, it’s a pizza shop right ? My employees know that we go by the business and not by the clock. When we get busy, whenever we get busy, we’re working. Even if it’s past your ‘out’ time. If it’s slow, they’ll be out before their scheduled ‘out’ time. Make hay while the sun shines.

Of course these comments are made with my business and how I run things. I’m not familiar with your situation so I could be waaaaay off on some of them. I thought I’d give you my opinion for whatever that’s worth.

Good luck and I hope it stayed busy the whole weekend for you.

td

#1. September is back to school. Every industry not associated with back to school gets slower.
#2. So it your job to associate yourself with back to school thru marketing!
#3. That why October was made Nat’l Pizza Month, to start the ball rolling again after September.
#4 When school starts, pizza night moves to Fri and Sat, Weeknights get slower. Weeknight specials can help, but you really have to “give it away” to make a difference. You’ll find some folks on The Tank who do specials on Tuesday, and its their busiest night of the week…but not their most profitable. Just make sure you plan your staffing realistically… “a big rush” probably isn’t gonna happen on Wednesday, unless you make it happen.
#5. When you hung you Karrington letters, but you got busy without redeeming them, it implies that your customers don’t need you to give your product away to get them. You’re still new, and they just need a reminder you exist! Are you doing magnets?
#6 I know I keep saying this, but if you had an email campaign, you could have been “pushing our product” from your desk in about 30 min, instead of 2 hour on foot. I use campaigner.com. (I’m not selling anything, and get nothing if you sign up.) Other marketing stuff (some of which I do get fees from) are at the links below.

One of the key things I have found is consistency in marketing (there’s that word again - consistency!)

If you do some marketing and get a result and then business drops what is that telling you??? To do it (or something similar) again!!! It doesn’t always matter what you do as long as you are reminding people you are there.

Have a marketing plan and try and have something on the go all the time, for example door hang a little every week but cover the area say once a month. Work out how often you can afford to do something and plan to do it over that period. Do it at the mid to end of the week (weds/thursday) so that you will see business on Fri/Sat. Doing it on a Friday is wayyyy to late and to be honest as said above you need your staff in store then not door hanging.

We tend to do extra marketing when we know the month will be quiet and so far its paying off. Sept is normally not a great month but we’ve been really consistent with our marketing this year and for sept we are at least 15% up on last year (which was up on the previous year as well).

The key is that as long as you do some marketing then people will come - obviously what you do with them is pretty important as well but its a start!

UPDATE #2:

I completely agree with you guys about consistency and where time should be spent. However, we’re in an awkward situation where we were asked by a deep pocketed local last year to run the store in exchange for 50% ownership and he would purchase it. He left us at the alter a couple days after signing an “intent to buy” contract and we felt like it wasn’t right to back out on it too. Started with a full inventory and $150 in the till a year ago with a restaurant that was losing six figures a year and already turned our first true profit last month (a year earlier than expected and with a big “thanks” to TT).

We closed September strong and landed right back where our monthly sales always are. I think the early month slump had to do with people buying back to school clothes, supplies, etc. I have been doing a lot of menu hanging instead of coupons and am seeing that, while I’m not getting as much of a return rate, I’m getting a higher ticket average and doing a lot less discounting. Will continue to promote when I get rare moments free, I think this month is going to be even better.