CREATING REPEAT BUSINESS OR EVEN A FESTIVE TRADITION
by DAWN MERCER
Depending on the nature of your businesses, you may find winter months more challenging while, some family entertainment businesses or luxury item retail operators rely on the Christmas season to subsidise the rest of the year. Either way, there is no doubt, there is huge opportunity for rural businesses in the festive period.
With leisure diversification, there are a plethora of options to keep things fresh and encourage repeat visits, and a seasonal event calendar is fast proving a massive ally to operators across the world. In particular, the festive period gives rural businesses an opportunity to theme an experience and drive both new and existing audiences with a new reason to pop in, enjoy festive fare and shop while they are with you. With 83% of travellers saying that food and beverage makes an experience more memorable, it is an important opportunity to offer some festive treats whether that be a pop-up roast chestnut cart, a fine dining experience or anything in between, to maximise the memorability for the guest, and create a commercial opportunity for you, as the owner.
Unlike any other time of year, families and consumers are more likely to be in the mood to be generous, while seeking those very special moments with loved ones, and this is the perfect opportunity to welcome guests whom are happy to invest heavily into special experiences. In fact, even if your estate or land is private the rest of the year, Christmas may be the one time of year you want to invest in and it presents a significant revenue addition.
Christmas is essentially the pinnacle of family time and experience expenditure and there are a number of ways you can make a special effort and turn your destination into the one that families return to year after year.
Customers are actively seeking time in a rural setting at Christmas – the perfect Christmas scene of wintery woodlands, the added nostalgic nibble or aperitif – make for an ‘instagrammable’ opportunity for them, and for you to get your brand out there.
Furthermore, a local, artisan product provides customers with the ideal Christmas stocking filler to send to friends further afield.
If you haven’t done anything like this before, this is a good opportunity to test the market, with something low cost, or if you are looking to build upon an existing offering, go bigger and plan a complete festive experience. Often it takes a number of years to maximise the potential of seasonal events, and often they take a few years of sweat to get them being the money-makers they have the potential to be.
Ideas range from launching extra festive-themed products, to installing Christmas grottos with illuminations, storytelling, craft fayres, food markets and special dining events. The list goes on…
UTILISING SOCIAL MEDIA
Many family decision makers turn to social media to find out what events are happening and what offers are on locally. A small investment in paid social media posts can be targeted easily and specifically to a particular audience and drive footfall.
Furthermore, the installation of an ‘Elfie Selfie’ type area, where people are encouraged to take a photo and share the festive fun with their peers can maximise the opportunity of sharing your brand on social media while they are with you.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
• What could you do at your location that would leverage your current offering and enhance it with a seasonal angle?
• How much do you want to invest? Based on the size of your business and your experience in the market.
• What you would like to try and do to test the market?
• Look at other offerings in the area – what seems popular? Or, where are the gaps?
• Would you need to employ seasonal staff to deliver the experience?
• Try and plan for your seasonal offerings to help boost quieter times rather than encouraging more visitors at peak times. Your plan needs to deliver what the business requires of it otherwise, is it even a wise investment?
• If you plan to serve alcohol, provide entertainment in the form of music, dancing or sports or be open later than 11pm, you may need a ‘temporary event notice’ which can be obtained from your local authority.
If your Christmas activity includes the potential for a temporary structure – this can be permitted for up to 28 days of the year (these do not have to be consecutive) simply by notifying your local authority of your plans. When starting out this gives operations an opportunity to test the water before investing fully in permanent structures.
It is best to try and offer as much information as possible to the local authority on the potential impact it may have on the surrounding area – for example, how you will manage traffic and parking, noise and any other significant aspects. This should be a sufficient measure in the short-term. For full advice, you can speak to one of our planners.
If you find your venture successful, it may give you the confidence in continuing to invest in seasonal events, many of which coincide with children’s school holidays – for e.g. Easter, summer and Halloween.
If the activity proves successful, it is often that families want to create a tradition and will welcome the opportunity to experience your offering every year.