O is for optimism! Your A to Z guide to summer business in Norfolk and Suffolk
Summer is truly upon us, and East Anglia continues to bask in sunshine and high temperatures. But what does it mean for companies? With a trusty dictionary and a little poetic licence, our reporters have compiled a selective A to Z tour through the summer season in business.
A Attractions The arrival of the school summer holidays opens the visitor floodgates for East Anglia’s tourist attractions. At Bewilderwood in Hoveton, around 50% of the visitors during its 10-month season come during the six-week summer holiday. Millie Batch from Bewilderwood’s marketing team said: “We have an entirely outdoor attraction so we are very weather dependent and in the summer we have a lot of competition.”
B Boats Taking to the water is a well-loved summer activity in Norfolk and Suffolk, for the day or the week.
Lisa Hodds, general manager at Ferry Marina in Horning, said all its boats are out in the yard ready for the summer season. While it has around 20 permanent staff, including engineers and front of house staff, its total headcount can increase to 40 over the summer as it drafts in more workers to clean the boats after holidaymakers and day visitors return them to the boatyard. “There is a period from May to August or even September when we need that many staff as we have so many boats going out. I believe most boatyards will be in the same position,” she said.
C Camping and caravanning This holiday choice remains as popular as ever in the region. Farmer James Strachan, who runs Birds and Bees campsite at Rendham near Framlingham with wife Emma, said their first full season had been “terrific” so far, with bookings spurred on by good weather and coming in up to the 11th hour.
D Drinking The good weather and the World Cup have helped bring people into the region’s pubs. Rooney Anand, chief executive of Bury St Edmunds-based brewing and pub giant Greene King, said “good weather and popular sporting events” had increased momentum in its retail business in the first four months of the year.
E Eating Central England Co-op has been peering into customers’ shopping baskets this summer, traditionally a time for barbecues and vibrant salads. Beef burgers, sausages and chicken drumsticks make the top 10, along with salads, sauces and crisps.
F Fishing and angling Fishing and angling stores reel in the cash during the summer months. Andy Flint, manager of Angling Direct’s Norwich shop, said: “Business gets better during spring and summer once the river season opens. Because of the Broads we get a lot of holidaymakers in.”
G Gyms Summer can prove difficult for gyms with many people ditching their passes to lounge in the sun. Peter Dive, owner of Full Fitness Gym in Watton, said New Year was the peak, adding: “We thrive just before summer and then it’s quieter until the end of September.”
H Holidays The staycation trend is still strong and business is booming for accommodation providers in Norfolk and Suffolk. Many, like Hoseasons and Norfolk Country Cottages, have seen short break bookings increase significantly in recent years while uncertainty over household finances has led to an increase in later bookings.
I Ice cream Working with this seasonal treat can be challenging. Chris Edye, who runs Ronaldo Ices in Norwich, said around 70% of the business’s trade is done in July and August, with production rising from one or two barrels a week to at least six and 1,000 litres of ice cream being churned out every day in the busiest period.
J Jam Recent weather has been good for fruit growers and, therefore, East Anglia’s most famous jam. Chris Newenham, joint managing director of Wilkin & Sons in Tiptree, said: “It is really hot working in the jam factory at the moment and we as busy as we have ever been. The coastal tea rooms are really popular in the sunshine and people enjoy eating outside with the sea breeze.”
K Keeping cool Of paramount importance at this time of year, when the heat and humidity can cause office productivity to drop. Wearing the right clothes, swapping tea and coffee for plenty of water, investing in fans for staff, and switching off unnecessary electronics can help you keep your cool, say workplace gurus Londonoffices.com.
L Labour Seasonal work does come with challenges, particularly around staff.
Chris Edye of Ronaldo Ices said finding skilled labour for the “volatile” trade can be hard, with production hardly stopping during the busiest periods in July and August. “We are on six days a week at the moment and very often during the school holidays we will be on seven days, desperately trying to keep up with demand,” he said. “We will only have one or two guys on during the winter making ice cream and additions whereas we could do with five or more at the moment. But people with the skills want a bit more security.”
Lisa Hodds of Ferry Marina said after having trouble recruiting extra staff to clean its fleet of holiday and day hire boats in previous summers, the firm has now contracted in a cleaning firm to ensure it gets the staff it needs.
M Motivation How do you keep your staff motivated when the office hots up? Be sympathetic, advises Chris Scargill, tourism and leisure partner at regional accountancy firm Larking Gowen, which has implemented a more relaxed dress code for hot days and allows more flexible working hours during the summer. “Individuals’ pressure levels can also change when the heat is distracting and you have to accommodate that,” he said.
N Night-time The summer’s longer daylight hours can present opportunities. Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) has seen success in keeping residents in the city for longer with its Head Out Not Home campaign, while the newly launched Colchester BID hopes to keep visitors in the town for a “great evening out” as well as shopping.
O Optimism After a cold, wet start to 2018 the prolonged good weather in May and June has lifted businesses’ spirits. Accommodation providers have said that sun early in the summer can improve consumer optimism and lead to more bookings.
P Planning In a seasonal business, planning – particularly around income and expenditure – is key to survival. Chris Scargill of Larking Gowen has some simple advice: “Create a plan and stick to it.”
Q Quick! Make the most of it. For any seasonal business, time is valuable – make sure your business is prepared with staff, stock and strategy to beat the unpredictable British summer.
R Revenue When the majority of your revenue is earned in three months, ensuring it will cover expenses through the whole year is key. Chris Scargill said: “With the weather people are booking and capacity will be filling up, but the important thing is not to spend the money before you have it.”
S Swimming The temptation to jump into the water when the mercury rises is proving beneficial for Beccles Lido. Director Shaun Crowley said had welcomed around 12,000 visitors in its first five weeks, with the busy summer holiday period – when it normally does two thirds of its business – still to come.
T Tanning Tanning businesses pick up ahead of and during summer. Leanne McKenzie, manager of Glo Hair, Beauty and Tanning in Norwich, said: “A month or two months before summer, people buy all their tanning courses and come throughout the summer.”
U Umbrellas How does hot weather affect companies selling these and associated wet weather gear? Unsurprisingly, during a hot Royal Norfolk Show last week, those stands selling coats, umbrellas and wellies lost out to hat sellers as the weather influenced consumer demand.
V Visitors According to Visit England there were 9.5 million trips to and 28.8 million nights spent in the East of England by tourists in 2016. Larking Gowen, which compiles a yearly tourism and leisure business survey, expects Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to have seen an increase in visitor numbers in 2017 – Norfolk and Essex by around 5% and Suffolk by 4%.
W World Cup, Wimbledon (and work) Many businesses are allowing some flexibility for sports fans this summer. Norwich accountancy firm Farnell Clarke is allowing staff a lie-in after any England match, while Ipswich-based recruitment agency Jark hosted a viewing for local construction companies for the England-Belgium game.
X Experience This is the buzz word in business at the moment, particularly in retail where just selling to customers is no longer cutting the mustard for even big names.
Y Yurts Outdoor accommodation, including yurts and glamping, comes into its own in the summer months. At West Stow Pods near Bury St Edmunds a recently completed “hobbit hole” is the latest addition to the glamping offering. Owner Ed Lengyel said, after a slow start to its fifth year, the sun had prompted more bookings. Meanwhile MarGins, which offers glamping and walking holidays along the North Norfolk coast, has introduced glamping-only holidays for its second season. Gin Wilson-North, who runs the business with husband Mark, said the introduction of the new option had boosted business and caused a surge in later bookings.
Z Zoos These are often a staple of the summer holiday calendar. Melissa Fitch, business development manager at Colchester Zoo, said the attraction sees on average 130,000 more visitors from June to September than in December to March.