Solve My Problem: How To Increase Traffic In Winter

Valery Cordrey
Valery Cordrey

I’m looking for ideas to bring in money in the winter as well as how to keep employees during slow times.
— Valery Cordrey, East Coast Garden Center

Advice from Tom Hilgeman, White Oak Gardens

At White Oak, Make & Takes have become an important part of what we do. The classes are very popular and well attended. Winter is a great time for these because not much is going on so we have the space and employees available to make these classes successful.

We start promoting the classes right after the first of the year on Facebook and in our weekly eMails. This year we are starting Make & Takes on the third Saturday in January and running them through April. The workshops are paid classes and cost anywhere from $30 to $50 each. On average we have about 15 customers attend, but some of the more popular classes have up to 25.

Our marketing team works on coming up with the name and details for each class, and we have a greenhouse employee who does a great job of running the workshops. We have made a commitment to being open year-round, and these workshops are one way we try to bring in customers during the slow times.

Advice from Lynne Bower, Stonegate Gardens

The question is always, what do we do with our employees in the slow times? I want to ask another question: Why do we have to “make up work” to keep us busy when the income being generated is marginal at best? Why do we avoid what makes the most sense financially, which is to temporarily lay off our employees?

I realize we are all dedicated to our good employees, but why should our business suffer from not doing what is obvious? For a company to decide to lay off all or some of its employees is not an easy decision. If we were a big box store or another type of business, the decision would be more obvious. Most of our businesses are family owned. We think of all of our employees as family. Once that occurs, the decision becomes more emotional and it’s difficult to be objective.

Here are two major points to consider:
1. Our businesses already pay unemployment insurance. Would the increase in your insurance rate be more than what you would save in salaries? Unlikely.
2. None of us want good employees to leave the company. However, a “planned” four- to six-week period of time off, and employees collecting two-thirds of their regular income, may not be as scary or as risky as it first sounds.

Educating yourself and your employees will make the process less confusing. Let employees know in advance of the temporary layoff. You may consider continuing to pay their full health insurance or a portion of it.

Usually, laid-off employees are able to legally work six hours a week without losing any unemployment benefits. I am sure it is easier for us to find “needed work” for six hours a week as opposed to 40 hours a week. Or maybe your employees will find this entire time off/away to be beneficial for them to concentrate on their personal lives. You may also decide to “rotate” the layoffs each year. Each situation is different and has to be handled differently for your good employees.

Instead of avoiding layoffs, embrace them.

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