Once the summer tourist season is over, a majority of Wrightsville Beach businesses remain open year-round with proven business strategies that bring patrons through the door during the fall and winter months.
With 17 years under his belt at South Beach Grill, owner John Andrews said he believes there is a delicate balance to strike when operating a beach business out of season.
“After 17 cycles, we feel like we have gotten a good handle on how to extend a welcome mat and not cut corners because often that is what happens when you try and give away the store,” Andrews said.
The two things South Beach Grill does during the offseason that most beach businesses also incorporate include cutting overhead costs and incentivizing customers. To cut down on labor costs, South Beach Grill closes every Monday beginning the end of September.
“What that does is allow us to funnel some of the business that might now come in mid-week,” he said. “The other thing we do is run specials, like everyone else does … and those help incentivize people to come in and feel like their business is appreciated.”
South End Surf Shop owner Jeff DeGroote also said weather- and time-specific triggered sales help business in the offseason.
“What I try to do to create traffic, especially on this end of the island, is to have sales and events … and do fun things to attract people down to the shop,” DeGroote said. “I try to have an optimistic approach to business, I keep my overhead low in the offseason and I have a smaller shop that it is more manageable in the shoulder and offseason.”
While locals keep the lights on in the offseason, Andrews said he also likes to help his employees as much as he can during that time frame as well.
“As a business, we can make it through to the other side of the offseason, but as a junior in college you might not have that economic safety net that a business has,” Andrews said. “So I think it is the responsibility we have as employers to look out for our employees because they work so hard during the summer that we owe them as much courtesy and help as we can in the offseason.”
If he has to downsize staff, Andrews said he always calls around to other businesses to see if they need help and sometimes there is employee sharing between multiple beach businesses. In the past, Andrews said he has often been able to find extra hours for his employees during the offseason at the beach hotels for catered events or seasonal parties.
With revenues down in the offseason, ad dollars are limited, so both Andrews and DeGroote said social media has become another great tool for attracting offseason business along with good customer service.
“Social media is a great way to reach customers so that is one of our big things along with the website and live surf camera,” DeGroote said. “Word of mouth has helped us tremendously, and believe it or not, word of mouth still exists and providing customer service works well.”
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