Children love it. Many parents struggle to cope with it. But, for canny SMEs, this week’s half-term holiday could be a great boost to business, as mothers and fathers look for ways to keep their offspring occupied and entertained. Retailers can win extra sales, hospitality firms could attract more family trade, and those operating in tourism have the chance to benefit from all those people keen to enjoy their time off. School may be out for the next seven days, but business is definitely on.
School holidays affect business sectors in different ways, with some losing out and others gaining. But retailers often get lucky, with most typically reporting a boost in sales during half-term, in particular. Footfall in the high street rose by 4.2 per cent on average during the last half-term holiday, according to retail researcher Springboard, and more people out shopping generally means more sales.
If you’re the boss of a retail business, look at the stock you have that’s most likely to appeal to children – and grown-ups buying on their behalf. Whether it’s kidswear, games and toys, or educational items, such as school kit, books or puzzles, a well-placed promotional display could draw the right crowd into your store.
If you operate online, use all of the resources at your disposal to lure parents who may be surfing the web in between busy play dates. For both bricks and mortar shops and e-tailers, social media is an essential tool to spread the word about deals, sales, and half-term events. We’ve outlined on this blog before the ways in which smaller retailers embrace technology to take on their biggest competitors. The immediacy of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook mean that you can devise a last-minute marketing campaign at very little notice. If your business uses digital marketing tactics such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, then a few short-term adjustments to your PPC campaigns to include half-term references could yield even better results. Consider an eleventh hour mail-shot via email or text message if you’re running a promotion and have an established marketing list.
Feeding the masses
For those running restaurants and family-friendly eateries, there’ll be many more mouths to feed over the next seven days. The half-term holiday often gives pubs and restaurants a significant boost to trade, according to industry research by the Coffer Peach Business Tracker. But how can you make your own venue attractive to parents with children? Start by broadcasting the fact your enterprise not only tolerates, but positively loves little ones. Too few British restaurateurs do, unlike their peers on the continent. Make room for pushchairs and buggies, always have plenty of high chairs available, plus crayons and paper tablecloths, and advertise that children are welcome on signs or A-boards outside.
One obvious way to win business is to offer promotions appealing to your chosen audience, such as kids eating free until 3pm or a complimentary child’s meal per paying adult. Some restaurants offer a dedicated kids’ menu featuring children’s favourite dishes, plus tempting sundaes. Even tweaking your dessert menu to allow kids single scoops of ice cream could make the difference between a mother or father choosing your hostelry or the place next door.
If you’re particularly energetic, you might think about putting on entertainment to draw in the family crowd or competitions for kids with winners getting a prize or free dining for the entire group. Another ruse could be to pair up with a local museum, adventure centre, or cinema, giving ticket holders with children money off at your restaurant if they come to dine with you later.
But you’ve got to spread the word about what’s on offer. Again, social media is your best weapon in the fight for custom this half-term. The hashtag #halfterm is already beginning to trend on Twitter, so tap into all of those technologically savvy parents who are looking for activities by sending out regular, targeted messages with details of your deals, food and drink offers, and any events that may appeal to children.
Get away from it all
Any business operating in the tourism field is likely to be entering their busiest time of the year, whether they’re a tour operator, hotel or B&B, arts centre or music festival, or outdoor activity expert. The May half-term, which coincides with the second bank holiday of the month, is often seen as an acid test of what the forthcoming summer is likely to hold for those working in hospitality, entertainment and travel, and such seasonal businesses are always hopeful for signs of a good season ahead.
While it’s a costly time to go away, many families do use half-term to head abroad. Those selling holidays and foreign breaks often do well from the school vacation, but there are always parents looking for a late getaway, so keep promoting package deals and family-focused offers right up until the last minute. Your website should be bang up-to-date with all the best holiday bargains, and your social media feeds need refreshing constantly with hard-to-resist places to stay.
A lot of families opt for a staycation, with research from travel website Trivago finding London to be the number one destination in the UK for half-term holiday travellers, while Blackpool, Edinburgh, and Glasgow follow in the rankings. There were almost four million day visits within the UK in the first three months of last year, according to VisitEngland, and 11.3 million domestic overnight trips in May 2014. That’s a lot of potential business, so those working in areas popular with visitors should be using everything they know about marketing to get a slice of that extra trade.
Finally, business owners also have to consider balancing work commitments and childcare when school is closed – both for staff with kids and if they’re parents themselves. The keys things are to plan in advance for any employee absences, to have policies in place outlining how time off should be decided and organised, and to be fair in allocating leave so that everyone gets a break over time. When it comes to how you manage your own family and the baby that is your business during the half-term holiday, only you can decide where to draw the line. But make sure you take time away from the company to spend with your children – a hard thing for many entrepreneurs to do. Your kids won’t be around forever, whereas if your business is successful, it will keep you busy for many more years to come.