Can Your Shop Weather the Storm this Winter?

It’s one of the worst things that can happen during the winter —- the temperature outside is below butt-freezing level, you can’t watch the Walking Dead because snow is piling up on your satellite dish and the wind is blowing so hard that you can’t keep your torch lit. AND you’re running out of supplies —- we’re not talking about water or candles, but the important essentials like rolling papers, vape juice, CBD and Kratom and hemp-crafted scarves and beanies.

“Snow days are some of our best days — it is crazy,” says Sherri Polk, at Hippie Spirit, in Granite City, Illinois.

During the recent polar vortex, which blasted the Midwest and Northeast with sub-zero temps, many businesses closed their doors. Even Amazon closed some buildings, including fulfillment centers across the Midwest. But many smoke shops chose to remain open and weather the storm — even under the worst conditions.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, where a recent snow storm caused power outages leaving schools and businesses in the dark, Shakedown Street kept the candles burning for the hardcore hippies in need. Owner Joe Krzeminski called upon his inner McGyver and ran an inverter off his pickup parked out front to give his shop enough power to run the card reader and cash registers, charge his phone and keep the tunes playing on a bluetooth speaker. There may not have been a lot of light, but Joe and his staff used flashlights and candles to show customers the way around the store.

“We made it fun for people and loved it!,” Joe says.

At Hippie Spirit, they took inspiration from the winter weather to stage Snow Ball Deals where they cut out white paper circles to highlight sale prices on select items. They gave out free hot chocolate with mini marshmallows to keep their customers toasty warm, and even posted a snow art contest on social media.

It’s not always snow that creates a storm. In Lubbock, Texas the wind can whip up the dust so bad that streetlights come on in the middle of the day and tumbleweeds race cars down the highway. Most people stay inside, but those brave enough to venture out will find a big sale going on at Dirt City Smoke Shop.

“We announced two years back that anytime there’s dirt in the sky, everyone gets 20% off their entire purchase,” says owner Eric León. “We make sure to do it every time, and it’s actually caught on and people look forward to those days.”

For what it’s worth, the impact of weather—even a series of storms in a particularly bad winter—is generally short-lived. Retailers really shouldn’t go blaming the weatherman as the reason sales have slumped.

“If you are clever,” Eric adds, “I’m sure you can think of something similar to help those otherwise slow days.”

Reward Your Regulars. Whether or not you have a loyalty program, it’s important to reward your loyal regulars. Sure, these guys may likely be coming in regardless of the season, but word of mouth about your $10 reward for every $100 spent in January and February is hugely beneficial.

Plow Your Parking Lot. Snow in the winter makes small parking lots even smaller. Pay the dough to have someone scrape all the corners and leave enough room for anyone who wants to dine with you.

Promote Your Most Profitable Products. Even if you make fewer sales during this time of year, selling higher-profit items will help to make up for that fact. Put extra effort into the items you carry that have a high profit margin; train salespeople to suggest them.

Create Snow-Day Coupons. Give your customers extra incentive to come back to your shop by offering snow-day specials. For example, if the forecast calls for snow in your area, offer a discount based on the number of inches accumulated.

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