For some small business owners, summertime means taking longer vacations and extra days off. This isn’t just because the weather is nice: It’s also because the hotter months mark the slowest time of the year—the annual small business summer slowdown.
Fitness studios are particularly prone to a small business summer slowdown because customers and students tend to travel over the summer and often prefer to work out on their own outdoors.
Judy Hudson, owner of Easton Pilates in Easton, MA, has come to expect this slower season. She prepares for it by running promotions, experimenting with new classes and adjusting her expectations. She also uses this time to gear up for the upcoming fall and winter seasons. Hudson opened Easton Pilates and Myofascial Release Center 12 years ago. She offers group apparatus classes, Pilates mat and barre classes, semi-private and private Pilates sessions, wellness workshops, and myofascial release services. During a myofascial bodywork session, Hudson applies moderate pressure to soft tissue to release tension and enable muscles to stretch. It is generally considered a great compliment to Pilates workouts, she says
To help others manage their small business summer slowdown, here are Hudson’s top five tips:
1. Promote New Classes and Market Them.
For July and August, Easton Pilates drops its class load down to four classes a week compared to its usual 12 during busier months. Even with a shoestring schedule, Easton Pilates runs promotional specials and new classes. This year for example, Hudson is introducing a six-week poolside “Summer Shape Up” mat and barre class series—in her own backyard. She is also offering two similar series at her regular studio location. The pricing is slashed in half for the summer months, from the usual $30 a class to $16. The goal is to introduce new students to Pilates and barre and offer a discount to her loyal students who wish to continue over the summer. To promote the program, Hudson is blasting backyard paradise photos on Twitter and Facebook.
“I rely heavily on social media and email blasts through Constant Contact. More recently I’ve been promoting classes on the Thumbtack app as well.”
Even if she doesn’t get an overwhelming response, the creative new poolside class series is bound to grab some eyeballs and hopefully put Easton Pilates on the map for those looking for a fall fitness routine. “I’m always looking for new ways to pique interest. We’ll see what happens with these classes, but I think it will be fun to work out and cool off by the pool.
2. Adjust your staffing needs.
Hudson sometimes adds teachers to her roster if her student base expands. In the summer, however, she flies solo when she just doesn’t have the student base to support another teacher. This way, she can keep expenses down and not worry about depleting her cash flow.
3. Supplement your income.
Hudson, a board-certified therapist and fitness trainer for more than 20 years, picks up per diem physical therapy jobs at nearby hospitals to supplement her income. She also sells nutritional supplements and uses the time to focus on this side business.
2. Take a break when things are slow.
Easton Pilates used to bring on other teachers to cover classes when Hudson was on summer vacation. Not anymore. The studio closes down for two to three weeks as this is the only way Hudson says she can recharge without worrying about her business. Her wake-up call came a few years ago when she hired a teacher to run things while she was in Italy. Four days before she boarded the plane, that teacher quit. She had no choice but to close. However, because students signed up and expected their Pilates, Hudson scrambled to film her classes and provide them with free DVDs to work out in her absence. They loved it, but it proved to be a stressful few days. “Now I don’t leave anyone in charge over the summer when it’s so quiet anyway.”
3. Gear up for the busy fall.
Summer is a great time to regroup and plan for the fall and winter, says Hudson. Easton Pilates, for example, is planning to expand its offerings to Hudson’s new home-based location in nearby Foxboro. The studio will then be able to attract clients from a wider geographic location.Robyn Parets: Robyn is a journalist and business writer based in Boston. A former writer for Investor's Business Daily (IBD) and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and director of Pretzel Kids, a children's fitness brand and online kids' yoga teacher training school. You can follow her on Twitter at@RobynParets and keep up with her musings on her blog Away From Om.