Slow sales figures don't necessarily mean a floundering company and a stressed financial plan – in fact, the past year saw a number of healthy companies encounter problems with this critical aspect.
Thankfully, owners and managers have a number of available resources to pull themselves out of a sales funk and keep moving well into 2014. The post-holiday lull is actually one of the best times to reach out to new customers and grow, and a small business shouldn't be deterred by temporarily weak financial numbers.
Sales growth slows, but profit remains steady
Recently, private company data firm Sageworks released its first Private Company Report of 2014. This release highlights the financial health of American private companies and small businesses, and it found several interesting trends.
For starters, Sageworks reported that sales growth for these firms has been slow as of late. In total, U.S. businesses expanded sales at a rate of only 5.4 percent over the past year – the slowest its been since 2009. Even so, these same companies are still relatively stable. Strong profits were posted throughout 2013, with a net profit margin of 8.5 percent for the year, up from 6.1 percent in 2012 and 4.6 percent in 2011.
Small businesses, in addition to private companies, also experienced slower sales growth but stronger profits.
Use post-holiday months to boost sales
For most retailers across the U.S., before the holiday season is often the best time during the year for sales. And, that usually means the time right after is one of the worst. However, it doesn't need to be this way, and there are a number of things a small business owner could do to improve a financial plan.
Grant Cardone, an international sales expert, wrote in an article for Entrepreneur magazine that the traditional return period after the holidays can be a great time to reach out to new customers. For example, a person who comes in to return a gift may be tempted to buy something else. In addition, this time of year also provides a good opportunity to reach out to people who have been giving a lot during the year, but haven't bought themselves anything nice. Asking customers what would be the one thing they would get themselves is a good tactic to boost sales.
Overall, a small business owner can still find new and creative ways to increase sales and profits, even if certain aspects aren't performing at peak capacity.