Overcoming That Summer Sales Slump

As a seasonal dance business, identifying new revenue streams for slow spells and making a plan to execute them is a smart step toward sustainability.

DeAnna McIntosh: smiling woman on white couch with colorful sneakers, black dress, blue streaks in dark hair
A tip from business growth strategist DeAnna McIntosh: Start by looking at what revenue streams currently work for you and think about what you could add to serve the customer in a new, fresh way. Photo courtesy of DeAnna McIntosh

You can dance anywhere, anytime and anyplace you like, but if you’re in the business of dance, it’s a seasonal one. Summer months—the period between recitals and back-to-school—often can be a financial dry spell, unless one gets creative. It’s why studios offer summer intensives or specialty camps and why dance stores turn to sidewalk sales and other special events. Even individual performers or teachers seek guest teaching or performance gigs to make sure their income remains steady.

Finding unique summer revenue streams that align with your business goals can sometimes be a challenge: “Look at different industries outside of dance to get inspiration into new things you can do to sustain your revenue in the slow months,” says DeAnna McIntosh, a retail consultant and business growth strategist based in Atlanta. “The easiest place to find hidden revenue streams is to look at what streams are currently working and see what you can add to enhance them in a way that serves the customer in a new, fresh way. That could look like adding an event, an intimate one-on-one experience, or even customization.”

Liesl Dancewear of Woodbridge, Virginia, owned by Liesl Rinke Balatsenko, and Artistry Reimagined, a dance photography business owned by Jennifer Fitzpatrick, adjusted their game plans after forming a partnership at the height of the pandemic. That’s when Fitzpatrick opened her photography studio inside an unused room in the store, and together they held fundraising events for local studios. Dance studios booked a three-hour private shopping night and prebooked 10-minute photo sessions for $60. Afterward, the proceeds were shared with the studios, which received checks from both businesses totaling about $250 to $400. Fitzpatrick provided final images to both the store and the studio for marketing purposes. 

Collage of 9 dancer portraits in leotards, some with black skirts against red background, from mini photo sessions by Artistry Reimagined.
Artistry Reimagined and Liesl Dancewear market photo mini sessions to store customers, changing the photo shoot backdrop color seasonally. This shoot was in November. Photos by Artistry Reimagined, courtesy of Jennifer Fitzpatrick.

The partnership continues, just in a different way now that the need for studio fundraising nights has decreased, as studios began reopening after pandemic restrictions eased. “I was getting people asking about the mini sessions, and so I started scheduling different colored backgrounds every few months during slower paced times,” says Fitzpatrick, who is also the marketing manager for Liesl Dancewear. “It brings in customers to the store, so it’s a win.”

“Mini sessions” are now 20 minutes and cost $120; dancers receive four high-resolution images and can purchase additional images; Liesl Dancewear can use them on its website and social media. A November photo shoot event featured a red backdrop; an April one was purple. The next mini session is July 16, with a blue background. “We generate some sales from these events—not a huge amount, but the main idea is to stay connected to our community,” Fitzpatrick says, adding that she typically has about 15 dancers who sign up for her shoots. “Most dancers that come for a shoot purchase something, and as dancers share their images, they tag the store, which helps grow awareness.”

Adult dance instructor surrounded with group of young dancers, all with hands in the air.
Magdalena with some of the students in her Flamenco 4 Kids! program in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Magdalena

For some dance businesses, the summer means no reliable income for a couple of months. “My season goes through the end of June, and then I spend July and August planning for the fall,” says Magdalena, a self-employed flamenco teacher based in Washington, DC. “The situation with real estate here for small business means I have yet to build my own physical space, so I use up a lot of income toward dance studio rentals,” she says.

Ten months out of the year, Magdalena focuses on growing her Flamenco 4 Kids! program, her DanceFlamencoDC adult classes, and her work as a part-time Spanish-language instructor at a local school. Her two down months are spent determining dates, tuition and studio space; launching marketing efforts for the upcoming school year; and writing grant applications. “I try to lay low during the summer, but that doesn’t really happen because I always get a few performing gigs, which always helps financially,” Magdalena says. “I would continue adult classes, but there is no continuity because they’re always in and out of town during the summer.”

Magdalena, Flamenco teacher, surrounded by young students in Flamenco dresses, yellow flowers in hair
Magdalena (center) teaches flamenco to both kids and adults. Courtesy of Magdalena

If you have a couple slow sales months coming, or if you want to identify new programs, services or products to help bring in revenue, McIntosh recommends setting aside the time necessary to create a growth roadmap. “Evaluate what systems and structures need to be implemented to set the foundation for not just profitable growth, but sustainable growth,” she says. “The worst thing business owners can do is add a new revenue stream and not have the structure and teams in place to ensure that stream launches successfully and fits seamlessly into their current offerings.”

If the thought of adding new revenue streams to your plate stresses you out, then determine what is causing you to feel so overwhelmed: “In the vast majority of scenarios I see, it’s a lack of systems and structure, like merchandising strategy, that is causing the overwhelm,” McIntosh says. 

Once you make the time to do a deep dive into your financial details, you can determine what’s working really well for your bottom line. That will then allow you to see what areas or items to minimize or eliminate to help reduce your overwhelm. “It sounds simple, but business owners need to dig deeper than surface level and face the not-so-pretty parts of the business that they may not love—like the numbers—because they’ll tell them exactly what to do next,” McIntosh says. “Once they have the growth roadmap, and the structures and systems in place that will eliminate overwhelm, the next step is to simply execute the growth plan.”

Hannah Maria Hayes has an MA in dance education from New York University and has been writing for Dance Media publications since 2008.